Field Seminar: Water, Given and Gift

Post by Jens Soentgen and Anne-Sopie Balzer


In July 2022, the IDK UmWeltDenken offered its first Field Seminar, in a series of events revolving around the fundamental question: what is water? What is the meaning of the notion that “we are bodies of water” (Neimanis)? It explored waterways, water-quality, water-politics and water-poetics in and around Augsburg.

Blood, bile, intracellular fluid; a small ocean swallowed, a wild wetland in our gut;
rivulets forsaken making their way from our insides to out, from watery womb to watery world:
We are bodies of water.
– Astrida Neimanis

Recite words for water
weeter wader weetar vatn
watn voda
[insert all languages here]
– Brenda Hillman

Le ruisseau […] vous redira, à chaque instant, quelque beau mot tout rond qui roule sur les
– Gaston Bachelard

Let it rain in my brain
– Lee ‚Scratch‘ Perry

The field seminar “Water: Given and Gift” was all about inspiring the PhD students to think about water in a comprehensive sense. The first step was an online panel discussion titled “Who owns the water?” PhD students were present while experts, including IDK members PD Dr. Jens Soentgen and Prof. Dr. Kerstin Schlögl-Flierl, discussed issues related to water as a resource, ranging from usage claims to environmentally friendly management. The actual field seminar consisted of a first, theoretical part, in which participants discussed a text from Astrida Neimanis’ book Bodies of Water. The event took place at WZU under the direction of Jens Soentgen and IDK PhD student Anne-Sophie Balzer.

A group of students and Norbert Pantel standing nearby trees in the Augsburg city forest

Norbert Pantel guides the participants through the Augsburg city forest and explains Augsburg’s special water ecology

In the second, practical part, Norbert Pantel from the “Landschaftspflegeverband” guided a tour of the city forest. The focus here was on the historical importance of water for the city of Augsburg. Moving along the many streams, Pantel led the participants through the Siebentischwald forest to the old town and explained the origins of Augsburg’s special water ecology, whose history goes back far into the Middle Ages.

Three glasses of water standing on a table

Another session was led by PD Dr. Simon Meissner (WZU), who, in his capacity as a certified water sommelier, conducted a water tasting. The session focused on different compositions and tastes of mineral water. In a blind tasting, the participants noted the taste and consistency of a selection of table and medicinal waters and tap water from Augsburg. Surprisingly, the latter was the winner for a majority of the participants; expensive medicinal and spring waters came in last.


Wednesday - Friday

July 13 - 29 2022

Field Seminar: Poetics of Water (Jens Soentgen, Anne-Sophie Balzer)