Fluidity: Knowing Water in the Americas Panel

April 3, 2018 - 3:00pm

Fluidity: Knowing Water in the Americas is an interdisciplinary panel on water organized as part of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society's Water's Edge programming. Panelists include Bathsheba Demuth (Assistant Professor of History, Brown University); Noor Johnson (Fletcher School at Tufts University and the National Snow and Ice Data Center); John F. López (Assistant Professor of Art History, University of California, Davis and current JCB fellow); and Katherine Ibbett (Professor of French, Trinity College, University of Oxford). The panel is introduced and moderated by JCB Director and Librarian Neil Safier, and complemented by Sourcing the Stream, an installation by Wendy Woodson (Amherst College).

Please find more information about the presentations below:

Katherine Ibbett, Staying Afloat: French Writing on the American River

Early modern French writing hovers continually at the surface of the water; in novels and poems, objects from bodies to books bob up to the surface of rivers and change the course of events. This presentation turns to French writing about American rivers - the Saint Laurent and the Mississippi - and asks how what surfaces in these texts illuminates French understandings of American practices. How does the capacity or failure to stay afloat - in or out of a canoe - shape French ambitions in the Americas?

Bathsheba Demuth, In the Shelter of the Ice: Cetacean & Human Uses of the Frozen Sea 

Iñupiaq and Yupik whalers in the Western Arctic have a long history of using sea ice, as knowing how to navigate the changeable geography of the sea's frozen surface was a critical part of finding, hunting, and communicating with whales.  Bowheads also know and use ice in their migration. This presentation will discuss how ice enabled this human-cetacean relationship, and how use of the ice changed after commercial whalers - some of them from Rhode Island - arrived in the 1850s.  

Noor Johnson, #OurWaterOurFood: Inuit resistance to seismic testing in Baffin Bay, Canada

In 2014, the National Energy Board of Canada granted a five-year permit for an offshore seismic testing project in Baffin Bay. Inuit from Clyde River in Nunavut Territory, working with Greenpeace and other supporters, launched a legal campaign to halt the testing based on concerns about the impact on marine animals. Their efforts yielded a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada that overturned the testing permit and emphasized the need for "deep consultation" on energy development projects. This talk will give a brief history of the seismic testing conflict and will discuss the role of Inuit and scientific knowledge in decision-making about the future of the Arctic marine environment.

John F. López, Mexico City, Water, Climate Change
With global warming, rising sea levels, and extreme weather, cities around the world are at risk of catastrophic flooding. How can the humanities help to better address the challenges that extreme weather poses to cities in the climate-change era? Through study of Mexico City’s historical arc of development relative to flooding, this presentation underscores that how a city responds to environmental crisis can be a challenge posed to historical analysis and investigation, and that insights to mitigate extreme weather in the present may derive from humanities scholarship.

This event is followed by a reception. The Reading Room will close to researchers at 1:00 pm.