Mississippi. An Anthropocene River.

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‘Mississippi. An Anthropocene River’ explores the vast but patchy area of the Mississippi in its changing spatio-temporal formations. Its aim is to open up this archival landscape to a larger public and make it legible as a critical zone of habitation and long-term interaction between humans and the environment. From October 2018 to November 2019, several interdisciplinary groups of researchers, artists and stakeholders from civil society will investigate the river basin to develop local approaches to issues of global change and together will forge new methods of transdisciplinary research and education.

A research collaboration with HKW and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.


The Mississippi River Basin is an immense space continually being reshaped by human activities. As a central axis through the continent and a catchment for ecological, industrial and social realities it presents a multifaceted topography of the Anthropocene, the geological epoch of humankind. It designates a peculiar heterogeneous space in which genuinely anthropocenic problems, possibilities and hopes intersect in a unique way, triangulating humans, grandiose ecosystems and the forceful advancement of economic-technological infrastructures.

The river’s meandering path has carved out an iconic landscape in US mythology and has become a symbol for human impact. Barely a river but more of a floodplain before it was massively dredged in the 20th century, the Mississippi river has become a major industrial and agricultural corridor that cuts through the “heartland” of the United States.

Through time, the peculiar river and its ecology has evolved as a constantly shifting ecosystem, a catchment of cultures, a dividing line, a water highway for resources and goods, and a sink for pollutants. From the logging and mining zones in the Upper River area to the high technology and petrochemical centers in the Delta; from the industrial agricultural landscapes of the Midwest to the “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico; from the historic transportation network enabling the egregious trade of human forced labor to the social injustices of poverty and deindustrialization today—the Mississippi is a symptom and object of investigation for the radical impact humans inflict on the Earth.

Mississippi. An Anthropocene River is developed and organized by HKW and MPIWG in collaboration with numerous international partners. It is a part of the Anthropocene Curriculum (since 2013), an international long-term project for experimental forms of Anthropocene research and education.


Morgan Adamson (Macalester College), Steven Badgett (artist), Daniel Barber (University of Pennsylvania), Jeremy Bolen (School of the Art Institute of Chicago), Mark Borrello (University of Minnesota), Dominic Boyer (Rice University, Houston), Kate Brauman (University of Minnesota), Bruce Braun (University of Minnesota), Nicholas Brown (Northeastern University, Boston), Matthew Coolidge (The Center for Land Use Interpretation), Alison Crowther (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena), Frank Drewnick (Max Planck Institute for Chemistry), Vicente M. Diaz (University of Minnesota), Matthew Fluharty (Outpost Winona), Kim Fortun (University of California), Beate Geissler (University of Illinois), Sam Gould (Minneapolis College of Art and Design), Ryan Griffis (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Orit Halpern (Concordia University Montréal), Monica Haller (University of Minnesota), Brian Holmes (Deep Time Chicago), Andy Horowitz (Tulane University New Orleans), Benjamin Johnson (Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society), Sarah Lewison (Southern Illinois University), Sarah Kanouse (University of Iowa), Jed O. Kaplan (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History), Bonnie Keeler (University of Minnesota), Jason Kelly (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis), Tristram R. Kidder (Washington University in St. Louis), John Kim (Macalester College), Axel Kleidon (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena), Scott Knowles (Drexel University, Philadelphia), Amy Lesen (ByWater Institute, Tulane University New Orleans), Shanai Matheson (Water Bar), Sebastian Müllauer (artist), Roopali Phadke (Macalester College), Claire Pentecost (School of the Arts Institute of Chicago), Giulia Rispoli (MPIWG, Berlin), Max Ritts (University of Minnesota), Patrick Roberts (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History), Oliver Sann (School of the Arts Institute of Chicago), Robert N. Spengler (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History), Benjamin Steininger (MPIWG, Berlin), Anna Tsing (Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene), Thomas Turnbull (MPIWG, Berlin), Joseph Underhill (Augsburg University, Minneapolis), Jesse Vogler (Washington University, St. Louis), Colin Waters (British Geological Survey), Helge Wendt (MPIWG, Berlin), Andrew Yang (School of the Art Institute of Chicago), Jan Zalasiewicz (University of Leicester), and many more