Fluid Frontiers: Explorations of Water in the Humanities and Beyond

deadline for submissions: 
March 1, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
University of Idaho Graduate English Department
contact email: 

University of Idaho Graduate English Conference

Seventy-one percent of the planet is covered in water — an element that is fluid, ever-changing, and essential to life on Earth. We live in a time where melting glaciers and rising water levels are reshaping landscapes, and physical and social boundaries are becoming increasingly fluid. This fluidity is written into our bodies at the cellular level. It welcomes us to think critically about ways of knowing both human and nonhuman worlds and creates a much-needed space for less-privileged narratives in academia and society. The graduate students in the University of Idaho Department of English invite you to consider how literature, creative writing, pedagogy, linguistics, and the humanities at large engage with water as both a physical substance and concept. This might range from ecocritical analyses, to fluid interpretations of language and literature, to creative works on the fluidity of relationships, ontologies, and experiences. We welcome projects that will open a discussion on ever-shifting creative, pedagogical, rhetorical, and theoretical boundaries, as well as explorations of how academic disciplines might harness the fluctuation of belief and knowledge to push these boundaries even further in ways that reflect the increasing interdisciplinarity of the watery world that we inhabit and embody.

Possible areas of interest include:

  • Environmental humanities work
  • Pop-culture or film studies
  • Digital humanities projects
  • Interdisciplinary literary scholarship
  • Linguistics scholarship
  • Work in animal studies
  • Creative and/or speculative nonfiction
  • Science communication

Possible questions to consider:

  • How can the mechanics of water help us conceptualize and understand the dynamics of our world?
  • How are genre and form changing to accomodate a fluid perception of experience?
  • How can art, literature, and/or other interdisciplinary work challenge traditional ways of understanding the world?
  • In what ways can the humanities address the shifting boundaries between Nature and Culture?
  • How does water function as a transcultural space?


"Reclaimed Waters: The Arts of Elemental Justice in the Anthropocene"
Professor Richard Watts (French/Comparative History of Ideas/Environmental Humanities)
University of Washington, Seattle

Abstract: If instead of thinking of water as alternately pure or polluted—with all the associated pairs of tropes such as righteousness and abjection, virginity and defilement, and clarity and turbidity that this binary implies—what if we were to recognize water in the current social-ecological epoch of the Anthropocene as always already polluted or opaque (in that it always bears something other than itself, and we often cannot see what it carries) and to reimagine water’s possibilities from that standpoint? This keynote address explores the question of how we move forward with and through “tainted” waters by considering how cultural creators, actors, and theorists across a range of media, spaces, and languages “reclaim” waters in the name of environmental and social justice.


Conference date: April 27, 2019

Conference location: University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho

We encourage paper/project proposals submitted by graduate students from all disciplines, as well as dance, theatrical, literary, and cinematic contributions. Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words, for 15-20 minute presentations to uigec@uidaho.edu by February 16, 2019. Please include a paper/project title, presenter's name, email, academic affiliation, and a 100-150 word biography. Questions and concerns may be directed to Kit at uigec@uidaho.edu