CALL FOR PAPERS – Deadline Extended – Riverscaping: A Multidisciplinary Symposium


When: April 19th to 22nd 2012
Where: The Five College Consortium (Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Who: The symposium will bring together participants from a wide variety of places, disciplines, and approaches—in the humanities, arts, and sciences—to examine how the river has shaped their work and/or provoked new modes of investigation, inquiry, research and practice.

Background: A multi-disciplinary, international inquiry into our collective relationships with the river, “Riverscaping: Alles am Fluss: Rethinking Art, Environment and Community” is an 18-month series of events funded by the Five College consortium (Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst) and the American Delegation of the European Union as part of their “Getting to Know Europe” grant program. (see: )

Riverscapes is a term that has recently emerged to describe the most immediate landscapes that follow and flank rivers. Historically, this term was used to describe the physical earth around the river as a place impacted by and connected to the water––it refers to both actual places and represented landscapes. Our project extends this definition: the impact of the river on art, culture, space, the environment and the imagination is far more complex and oscillating. We see the riverscape as a term that binds together multiple histories, sciences, arts, practices and communities Is there coalescence between the soft boundaries of a flowing, rising and sinking, inhabited water body, its adjacent natural topologies, our human-made material conditions and shifting modes of inquiry?

How: Please submit one page prospectus, resume and cover letter briefly outlining your interest in the topic to: and by December 1st, 2011. Speakers will be notified of their acceptance by mid January 2012. Please indicate which session(s) you are targeting: Moments, Motion, Contestation, or the open session.

What: Papers should be approximately 20 minutes in length; drafts will be due to the session chairs and respondents by March 15th 2012. We will prepare for some common areas of discussion by proposing a series of organizing questions with the speakers in each session in the weeks before the symposium.

Sessions: [Saturday April 21st] We are seeking papers that are concerned with everything from: the river as a literary metaphor, as a form of choreography, as iconography, or as inspiration for a symphony; the role of the river in national or political confrontations or resolutions, or patterns of slavery and repression; or, as the catalyst for the design of greenways, parks, watersheds, or urban farming; or the river as a site for creative economies, educational innovations, and historical heritage institutions; etc.

  • MOMENTS: Can you step in the same river twice? Questions of time, change, sustainability, transformation…
  • MOTION: How does the river go? Currents, fluidity, metabolism, performance, displacement, or transport…
  • CONTESTATION: Who owns a river? Property, boundaries, stewardship, bridges, nations, cultures, battlefields… Purposely abstract yet suggestive, each session of the symposium is intended to allow speakers from a range of approaches and fields —philosophical, political, historical, economic, artistic, geological, geographical, and environmental—to explore the river as a physical reality, a spectacle, an obstacle and as a representational metaphor.
  • OPEN SESSION While both landscapes and water follow natural rules, the resultant form and interaction at any given place along the river is wholly unique and its mutations are infinite. This same idea defines the riverscaping project, and so we are planning an open session to allow for ideas that do not clearly match our conceptual categories above. While there are clear systems of ecology, economy, transport, arts and public space surrounding and representing the river, we hope to uncover and dissect the many interdisciplinary topologies and convergent iterations that the presence of the river cultivates.

Speakers include: Jonathan Lash, President of Hampshire College and former president of the World Resources Institute; T.S. McMillan, Oberlin College and author of The Meaning of Rivers: Flow and Reflection in American Literature (Iowa University Press, 2011 ); Hidenobu Jinnai Faculty of Engineering, Hosei University; Johan C. Varekamp, Environmental Studies, Wesleyan University; Julian Bonder/ Krystof Wodiczko.

Additional Events: There will be opportunities for exploring the natural, cultural, and culinary wonders along the Connecticut River in Western Massachusetts—including historic houses, museum and gallery tours, public art exhibitions, as well as numerous hiking and biking paths. Keynote lectures, an evening of performances and a closing forum will enable the exchange of ideas with scholars, artists and community groups who have been working with theriverscaping project in a number of different situations—discussions, presentations, competitions, and workshops.