Diluvial Houston

No other city, of similar size and scale, faces the kind of aqueous environmental threat that Houston has experienced as recently as September 2019 with Tropical Storm Imelda and as memorably as August 2017 with Hurricane Harvey. The environmental threat has only dramatically increased with the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, and today, we face a critical moment in the history of this city, when flood control and public health infrastructures are either near catastrophic failure or are leaving swaths of the population unprotected. When the response to catastrophic flooding is not all that well articulated two years after the most severe tropical cyclone rainfall event in the history of the United States, we in the humanities must ask ourselves how our skills and expertise can intervene. Similarly, the humanities can reveal aspects of racial and socioeconomic inequities in access to healthcare and resources, as well as mortality rates during pandemics. What stories. therefore, can the humanities help remember, learn, imagine, and tell? What ethics are involved in the weathering of such events? What happens to those who are displaced by flooding or confinement? How are archives and collections recuperated when damaged by water, and by whom? Are urban areas aware of their flooding and toxic histories? Can we create and document possible futures? Diluvial Houston: Rescued Histories, Engaged Humanities, and Imagined Futures proposes a new model for engaged humanities research and pedagogy focused on local partnerships that addresses the specific challenges Houston faces in times of environmental disaster.

This initiative is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.