Futures Beyond Refining

Restorying an Industrial River

Alex Imbot, Maggie McNulty, Bethany Wiggin

For centuries, the tidal wetlands at the confluence of the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers have provided a laboratory for human experiments from land reclamation to energy transitions. To apprehend this local petroscape and to represent its nature-cultures require a welter of research methods, drawing as much from lived expertise as from scientific and historical experts. This presentation explores public research collaboratives designed to explore and record past, present and future multi-species worlds and shifting waterscapes of this vulnerable local environment. Drawing on a university-based river research workshop, arts-driven explorations, a field school, oral history projects, and public tours, this presentation invites considerations of how academic-community collaborations can refuse extractive logics to remember forgotten river communities and offer support for emergent, equitable worlds amidst the ongoing climate emergency.

6 replies on “Futures Beyond Refining”

Wow! The scope and texture of the work you all have done is really impressive. Would you be willing to share about some of the infrastructure that’s supported it on both the Penn side and in neighborhoods and also the collaborating institutions? And maybe also how Penn undergrads find entry into or have a first encounter with this space of work and PPEH more generally?

Beautiful videography and such an exciting project. I love the boat metaphor!! I’m curious about your sense of best practices regarding the cultivation of “bi-directional” knowledge flows between community members and U researchers, since this is something that we’re also interested in at UO. What have been your takeaways at this point about how best to support or inspire those conversations, and also any advice re: ethical snags?

Wonderful presentation, you all! I’d like to hear your insights/advice about this, too, Bethany. The final voice saying “Let our voices be heard…I don’t care how you all gotta do it. If you’re studying it, or whatever, let our voices be heard” is a powerful one. How have you cultivated these bi-directional (multi-vocal?) knowledge flows that don’t perpetuate citizen/scholar (those “studying it”) or town/gown hierarchies? What were the biggest challenges? I’m also interested in Allison’s question about expanding what counts as data. Maybe these sets of questions are connected.

An absolutely exciting project! I so want the Philadelphia Refinery project to succeed as a prototype for the 50 mile long petrochemical/refinery corridor along the Houston Ship Channel. There will be so many ruins of fossil fuel infrastructure to recreate in the decades to come.

As I noted in the chat during our live presenter session Friday, I really admire the different forms that hand-writing, hand-drawing, and hand-crafting take in these projects and within the larger work of the Data Refuge and Data Storytelling project as part of the endeavor to open up access to and expand the meanings of data. I’d love to hear more about this facet of your work in our Saturday session.

This is a great and important project. I’m interested in hearing how you developed the connections with the community and built the level of trust and collaboration that is evident. How long did this take, and were there any missteps? If so, what did you learn from them?