Panel 1: After the Floods

3:15pm, Friday, October 14, 2016

Respondent: Curt Gambetta, doctoral candidate, School of Architecture, Princeton University

Cassandra Shepard, “As Salient as Saltwater: the Post-Colonialism in Post-Katrina” (African American Studies, Northwestern University)

Liz Koslov, “Unmaking the Waterfront: Experiences of Managed Retreat from the Coast” (Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University)

Rising seas, stronger storms, and other effects of climate change are rendering certain places increasingly vulnerable – even uninhabitable. Accounts of the impending inundation of coastal areas often presume the wholesale erasure of place, envisioning widespread loss of home, community, and agency as people are forced from their land. This paper draws on ethnographic research of “managed retreat” in the New York City borough of Staten Island to reveal the unmaking of place to be, in fact, as dynamic and generative an act as is its making. Highlighting a case of grassroots collective movement away from the coast, I show how unmaking the waterfront can work to deepen rather than simply sever connections to local history, culture, and geography, and even to build community through the very process of its dispersal.

Ifor Duncan, “Waterlines” (Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London)

In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, flooding and the threats posed by sea level rise have produced a growing North American flood imaginary of future watery ecologies. This imaginary finds literary expression in Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow (2014), and Michael Farris Smith’s Rivers (2014), as well as in cinema with Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012). What is common in many of these works is not only the waterline or mark as aftermath of flood events but also the spatial implications of the projected line. Through visual practices such as Hew Locke’s Beyond the Sea Wall and Eve Mosher’s HighWaterLine series this paper explores the ways waterlines can be viewed as aesthetic but also geological phenomena presaging watery futures, and asks how the lines left by floodwaters offer a future and spectral stratification of immersion.


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