It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.
During the CHCI-Mellon Crises of Democracy Summer School in Dubrovnik, I was given a unique opportunity to look into a wide range of global issues from many angles in the humanities and voices from different parts of the world. Such exercise had an inevitable double effect: it presented me new concepts, theories, and approaches, but also made me look back into questions that have already formed an important part of my own academic experience. I decided, then, towards the end of the course, that I wanted to address the many layers in which images of water were brought about throughout the talks and activities in and outside University of Zagreb’s Center for Advanced Academic Studies.
From a Post-colonial and Gender Studies standpoint, bodies of water have generated relevant scholarly work and have been the substance of numerous cultural and artistic artifacts. One could mention, for example, Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic, with its importance to the studies of the black diaspora and the Atlantic slave trade, but more recently, other decolonial approaches linking such questions to gender and sexuality, such as Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley’s “Black Atlantic, Queer Atlantic”, and Saidiya Hartman’s “Venus in Two Acts”. What these works have surfaced, among many other questions, is related to impossibilities: that of accessing memories obliterated by the European colonial project, that of giving voice to victims of the atrocities made in the name of power, progress, and imperialism. Undertaking such task is complex and dangerous because dealing with what was intentionally erased implies piecing fragments together, and should not result in romanticizing the past, but critically negotiating with it.
During the conflicts and wars in Croatia and Bosnia, the bodies of water that are very much present in the landscape and coastline were witnesses to what is, until today, an open wound in the region. Furthermore, water was used to reinforce power and control and is recurrently referenced in the survivors’ narratives: the scarcity, the feeling of thirst, the destruction of public water fountains, and the arrival of aid from international organizations. Water is at the core of memorial sites, as well. In Mostar, for instance, the city of dead, a cemetery created as homage to those who were killed, was designed to have a water fountain at the top of the hill going down all the way to an artificial lake. The lack of maintenance and care for the place — its dryness and lack of water — end up testifying even more vividly the trauma that still divides the city in two. This short video is my personal response to being in these places and making connections. These waters are material reminders of what happened to the region; they are also alive and part of what cannot be recorded, but yet to be imagined. And the deep river ran on…
Thiago Moyano is a PhD candidate in Literary and Linguistic Studies in English at the Modern Languages Department, University of São Paulo (USP), Brazil and has an MA degree from the same institution. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and Portuguese by the Federal University of Viçosa, Brazil, having taken credits as an undergraduate student at the University of Montevallo, AL, USA (CAPES-FIPSE 20082009). He was also a Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant Fellow at Yale University (FLTA 2012-2013), where he taught Portuguese as a Foreign Language. His current research interests are Gender and Sexuality Studies, Post-colonialism, and Caribbean-Canadian Fiction, focusing primarily on contemporary sexual citizenships within transnational dynamics.