A colonial history of the Mississippi River considers its construction and management as a border or barrier. It was the U.S.'s Western border, demarcating a line of separation and exclusion of people for the purpose of resource extraction. This history speaks to the consolidation of capital and power in the U.S. with the river continuing to be strategic in ongoing efforts to control communities and ecosystems along its banks.

To cross a river, in the sense of fording, can suggest a kind of trespass. In parts of the watershed traversing the Mississippi River has a meaning akin to “crossing to the wrong side of the tracks.” To travel, drift or migrate to the river's other side can be to challenge or resist its intensive management. We intend to reckon with the history of this sentiment and issue challenges to the structures and formations of everyday power and domination materialized on the basis of race, class, borders, and difference. 

From its headwaters to the Gulf, oil and other fossil fuel pipelines also cross the Mississippi River numerous times. These crossings have been the site of fierce activist resistance. Ambivalently, crossing characterizes both the placement of pipelines and resistance to them. Pipelines cut across territorial borders, move between public and private lands, and dig under fragile ecosystems. But crossing, in the sense of trespass, also calls to mind direct actions against their construction. In one of the largest collective refusals in the U.S. of the historical theft of Indigenous land and its ongoing expropriation as corporate property, over 1000 protestors were arrested in the Mississippi’s headwaters region during Stop Line 3 oil pipeline protests (2020-2021), many for trespass.

As a form of resistance to the river’s management, crossing can be associated with feelings of anger, betrayal, or disappointment, as it suggests broken allegiances and other departures from long-standing norms or expectations. However, as suggested by the ideas referenced here, there is an urgency to consider forms of crossing and trespass as productive experimentation with humanistic modes of research, action, and education that respond to the urgent problems of our times. Crossing implies emergent and braided pathways for research that move across, between and beyond disciplinary lines. Crossing is a vitalistic activism that complements its reflective practice. Crossing educates by bridging borders and thresholds (of institutions, communities, languages, habitats), reimagining the location of learning and how it takes place. 

The river is a symbol for this work, because its waters flow elusively. Water dismantles rigid structures of domination, not through direct confrontation, but by diluting and undermining them. Water disregards borders and boundaries by flowing over and around them, which, to cite Toni Morrison, is a “remembering” of where it used to be. Water moves in complex braided multiplicities, refusing static dualisms and strict differences. The river, in other words, is flow and resistance, the power of liminality, and life in transition.

Dec. 09,
River Semester
Sep. 28,
Ebru Bodur, Nick Karpinski, Kendra Keefer, Ashish Kumar
Nov. 14,
Shanai Matteson, Oscar Tuazon
Oct. 05,
Jeremy Bolen, Brian Holmes
Born Secret
Crossing Storytelling Radioactivity Imaginary Energy
Nov. 14,
Sarah Lewison, Swan Parsons, Florian Ruland, Alexandra Toland, Andrew Yang
On the Recuperative Mismanagement of a Cosmopolitan Fish
Crossing Welcoming Repairing Storytelling Conversation Experiment History Ecology Species
Oct. 04,
Temporary continent.
Good River, Bad River, Little River, Big River
Crossing Experiment Reflection Storytelling Sound Media
Nov. 21,
Imani Jacqueline Brown
The Remote Sensation of Disintegration
Crossing Sensing Violence Extraction Environmental Justice Ecology