Paddling-with the Mississippi River: An Exploration of Building Relationships With Place

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Paddling-with the Mississippi River: An Exploration of Building Relationships With Place

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It is not guaranteed that we will notice or care when life-supporting relationships between humans and more-than-humans are severed or imbalanced. In this dissertation, I argue that moving with a landscape—rooted in place-based ways of knowing—can make visible the complex interconnectedness of relationships with all others that often go ignored or unseen. Through personal narratives and theoretical reflections, I explore how paddling-with the length of the Mississippi River encouraged me to know, feel, and care for the river; to build perspective that, like the river, is capable of holding many tensions and contradictions. Embodied encounters with human, nonhuman, and more-than-human others along the 2,300-mile river directed my attention toward the water and its many uses and identities in ways that challenged the discursive binary of human-nature. I reflect on the transformative power of paddling-with the river to learn from place, reveal histories and practices that are often hidden from the public eye, and expose the vast interconnectedness of living and nonliving entities. I argue that emotionally-charged encounters with different others were vital to my experience building a relationship with the river. Feelings like shame and grief revealed my care and love for the water and propelled me to take action toward more reciprocal, balanced, and life-supporting relationships. Rooted in subjective storytelling and rhetorical analysis, this work explores one of the myriad ways we might be moved to care for earthly coexistence.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. Spring 2023. Major: Communication Studies. Advisors: Mark Pedelty, Mary Vavrus. 1 computer file (PDF); iv, 141 pages.

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Warren, Natalie. (2023). Paddling-with the Mississippi River: An Exploration of Building Relationships With Place. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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