Field Seminar: Poetics of Water

Wednesday - Friday

July 13 - 29 2022

It’s cliché to point this out, but almost 80 percent of our human body is water. Since we long ago shrunk our swim bladders and fins, left the ocean to live on land, and because most of our fluids are hidden from sight, we tend to perceive our bodily selves as firm and stable matter. This perception of being a sealed bag of bones might be one of the reasons we think of ourselves as autonomous, self-sufficient and human only, when in reality a multitude of co-present others share the space we inhabit, within our bodies and outside of them. Many systems (people, objects, animals, microbes, ecosystems, histories) compose the self. As the posthuman phenomenologist Prof. Dr. Astrida Neimanis reminds us, “[d]iscrete individualism is a rather dry, if convenient, myth.“ So what if we embraced the permeability and porousness of our watery selves? Think of the waterways that pass through the pipes in your home and through your bodily pipes – valves, veins, glands. Of your own fluids that you discard and send on the way – to where exactly?

Think of all the times and places that water touches your life, the human and other-than-human bodies that you are made of. We are all part of what Neimanis calls “planetary hydrocommons“, whether we know it or not.

Water is a medium that stretches across time and space. It is the realm of migrating bodies. Water reveals the effects of interwoven environmental and cultural crises. It is the link, the connecting tissue between a PET cola bottle that someone dumped into the River Yangtze in Shanghai, and the pelican choking on the remains of said bottle seventy years later in the great Pacific garbage patch, on the other side of this planet.

In this field seminar we will ask: what is water? What is the meaning of the notion that “we are bodies of water” (Neimanis)? We will explore waterways, water-quality, water-politics and water-poetics in and around Augsburg.

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My project aims to yoke together ecocritical thinking, new materialism, and animist philosophy as critical approaches to reading contemporary Anthropocene poetries with an emphasis on text-world relations.

My project aims to yoke together ecocritical thinking, new materialism, and animist philosophy as critical approaches to reading contemporary Anthropocene poetries with an emphasis on text-world relations.