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Friday, September 23, 2011

River Colloquium examines rivers from diverse perspectives

Contact for more information:
Sarah Harlan
Administrative Associate
News & Information Services
The Center for Interdisciplinary Studies will present The River Colloquium on Wednesday, September 28 in Carter Hall. The colloquium will feature presentations by 12 USI faculty members from Health Professions, Geology, Sociology, History, English, Political Science, and Art.

Presentations will examine various rivers from diverse perspectives, including the Mississippi River as an icon of African American culture, its role in the work of Melville and Mark Twain, and the delicate relationship between the quest for cheap energy and upstream flood control. The Ganges will serve as a locus for thinking about yoga as a journey, and as a search for community at its banks. The Thames will be featured as a force in shaping the culture of London. The Ohio will feature in an historian's discussion of the Flood of 1937, and in original works by poets and fiction writers. A geologist will discuss how rivers change, like people, through time and space.

The first presentation begins at 9 a.m. with the final one at 3:30 p.m. The Colloquium is part of a regional celebration of the Steamboat Bicentennial.

The schedule is below:

Session I: 9 a.m.
Dr. Betty Hart presents "Deep River"
- In all cultures, the river is deeply tied to the life of its people. In the literature and songs of African Americans, the river is no less a defining symbol of their physical and spiritual lives. This presentation looks at some of these portrayals of the river as evidenced in the art and literature of African Americans.

Dr. M. T. Morris presents "The Mississippi River Watershed: How Upstream Policies and Downstream Disasters Affect Us" - Morris will discuss how upstream flood control policies - paired with our nation's quest for cheap energy sources - have negatively impacted the fragile fringe that is Louisiana's coastline and contributed to the disaster known as Hurricane Katrina.

Session II: 10 a.m.
Dr. Paul Doss presents "Rivers, Dirt, Fish, and Growing Old: a Perspective on Space and Time"
- Rivers have a personality that changes in space the same way people change through time. The "Young" Yellowstone and Monongahela Rivers are fast, reckless, and energetic, catering to the Rainbow and Brook Trout, and the fly-fisherman. As they depart the mountains, and enter the plains, they seem to be on a middle-aged mission. They build floodplains by depositing sediment, sort of like a river's 401K account. It's here those rivers house Smallmouth Bass, Pike, and Walleye, and host the Speedboat Spin-casting fisherman. As rivers approach the coast, they are "old," lazy, and stubborn - they'll flow wherever they damn well please - kind of like retirement. The rivers are getting ready to die so to speak, ready to reach a velocity of zero, give away their inheritance and build a delta, and then disperse into the salt water. Some of that "dead river" water will soon evaporate from the ocean, get carried to the mountains, and fall as snow, supporting some youngster's snowboarding habit before melting and starting the whole trip over.

Dr. Robert Reid presents "The Great Flood of 1937: The Katrina of the Twentieth Century" - Well-known to those residents of the Tri-State who experienced this calamity, the 1937 flood is unrecognized by historians of the New Deal period and ignored by scholars of environmental disasters. As we approach the 75th anniversary of this event, the flood and its impact will be considered in this visual presentation.

Session III: 11 a.m.
Dr. Niharika Banerjea presents "Searching for Community at the Banks of the River: Middle-class Women and Same-Sex desires in Kolkata"
- Drawing from selected interviews with middle-class women in Kolkata, Indian, Banerjea discusses the possibility of same-sex desiring communities within patriarchal structures, and not as discrete identities at the margins of a heteronormative globalizing city.

Dr. Brandon Eggleston presents "Find the River" - For thousands of years individuals have been practicing the ancient mind-body practice of yoga. The river has for many years been seen as a metaphor for describing the life of the individual. Each river's flow and path is unique just like the individual's life and yogi's practice. The experience of flow is described as being present in the moment and not thinking of the past or future. The end result of the river is ultimately a lake or ocean just as the individual's yoga practice prepares all for the common result of life which is death.

Session IV: 1 p.m.
Dr. Tamara Hunt presents "London's River, London's History"
- The River Thames has been instrumental in shaping the face of London and its inhabitants - geographically, economically, socially, and culturally.

Dr. Michael Kearns presents "Moral Compasses on the Mississippi, as Dramatized by Mark Twain and Herman Melville" - Melville's The Confidence Man: His Masquerade and Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn present dramatically different views of the Mississippi River, yet both demonstrate how that river in particular, in the literary consciousness of the 19th-century America, functioned as a pathway to the wonderful, the strange, the terrifying, and the ultimately mysterious.

Session V: 2-3:30 p.m.
Original work by Matthew Graham, John Gibson, Nicole Reid, Leisa Belleau, and Patricia Aakhus

For more information on The River Colloquium, contact Aakhus, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, at 812/465-7088 or

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