About Open Rivers

An Interdisciplinary Online Journal

Open Rivers: Rethinking Water, Place & Community is an interdisciplinary online journal that recognizes rivers in general, and the Mississippi River in particular, as space for timely and critical conversations about the intersections between biophysical systems and human systems.

The project’s title, Open Rivers, speaks to its multi‐vocal and multi‐media nature (“open”), its attention to systems and components, stories and frameworks that make up rivers (“river” understood as a natural and human/cultural system), and to the genre of the work itself, a digital journal. Because of the inherent nature of rivers to disregard state and international borders, the title of our journal refers to more than just one river. We welcome contributions and conversations relating to other rivers around the world, as well.

Rethinking Water, Place & Community

“Rethinking Water, Place & Community” invites participation from a very wide range of scholars and practitioners. Our starting point is that rivers, as water systems, are fundamentally social and material organizations. The material dimensions of water, its “H2O-ness,” if you will, cannot be fully understood without understanding water as social. Likewise, “place” and “community,” often understood through lenses focusing on the experiences of people, cannot be fully understood except in relation to water.

Multiple Perspectives

This deliberately multi-vocal journal includes work from multiple perspectives, sources, and knowledge bases, including academic scholarship and community‐based knowledge. We therefore publish and review invited features and columns, encouraging a diverse set of voices as writers, editors, and reviewers. For each contribution, editors and members of the editorial board consider the claims a writer makes, whether the claims are supported (either by argument or amassing of appropriate evidence), and whether the claims are adequately clear and accessible to a wide audience, before accepting a submission for publication. A more traditional double‐blind peer review process is available for feature essays upon request.

In addition to feature essays and columns, the journal includes reviews of current and relevant work found in scholarly books and reports, as well as the more publicly oriented knowledge found in exhibitions, blogs, podcasts, internet sites, and places that are only now coming into the view of traditional scholarly disciplines and structures. We seek to gather, make available, and contextualize the best of what is available online and elsewhere.

Within and Beyond the Academy

Open Rivers contributes to discussions and debates within and beyond the academy, offering distinct perspectives, commitments, and intentions for work about rivers. To this end, the journal:

  • highlights issues of importance to specific communities and locales, frames these conversations with big‐picture questions, and connects them with discourses in and from other places.
  • contextualizes scientific and policy analysis by including the historical, humanistic, social, and cultural dimensions that inflect and affect them.
  • complicates advocacy debates to reveal a breadth of perspectives and impacts beyond just “for” and “against.”
  • authorizes voices and narratives that have been underrepresented, marginalized, and disempowered, engaging a variety of voices that understand the river in diverse ways, and that challenge other ways of knowing and consider their limitations.
  • seeks a nuanced understanding of the ways cultural expression such as art not only represents rivers, but also creates community, defines public and private space, and helps shape the rhetoric and decision making involving rivers’ stewardship.
  • historicizes decisions, actions, and thoughts on rivers and exposes their connections to present conditions and future possibilities amidst the dynamics of a changing climate in the Anthropocene.
  • offers an expansive set of perspectives inclusive of the entire watershed to illuminate connections spatially between a river’s main stem and its tributaries.
  • draws connections between human engagements with rivers and the stories, systems, and practices that shape human‐river relations both locally and in other areas of the world as spaces for cultural exchange and understanding.
  • uses rivers as a lens to view other issues such as environmental justice and equity, climate change, and community development.


We are happy to accept queries from authors interested in publishing in our journal. If you would like us to consider including your original work as a feature article or a column in a future issue of Open Rivers, please send an email inquiry to openrvrs@umn.edu with a short statement about your background, what you would like to write, and how you see it connecting to the mission of the journal. From there, we’ll work with you to discuss how we might be able to include your work in a future issue of the journal. Please note that we primarily publish new material (rather than previously published work) and we cannot guarantee that we will be able to accept all proposed submissions. For guidelines on the content and general format of journal features and columns, we recommend reading the Submission Guidelines page before submitting your proposal. Thanks for your interest in publishing in Open Rivers.