Listening and the Limits of Expertise

For as much as I have sought out stories of individuals’ flood experiences over the past two months, those stories more often than not turn into stories of community and collaborative response. During my time as an Obermann Public Scholar this summer, I have had the opportunity to engage with Vinton, Iowa and its people in a wide array of contexts: door-to-door canvassing in flood-affected neighborhoods, arranged interviews, telephone chats, facilitated group conversations, and flood resilience games. Through it all I’ve realized I have learned but a sliver of the town’s history and workings. I will never be an expert on Vinton and its flooding—not in the ways its residents are through their lived experiences.

Let’s Talk (with) Culverts

This is a twelve-inch-wide culvert pipe. I point it out to you only because I needed it pointed out to me, by Chris Ward, the city administrator of the town of Vinton, Iowa. I needed it pointed out to me because culvert pipes (twelve-inch or otherwise) are designed and put in place so as not to be seen—so as to channel water beneath roads and sidewalks and on its way to the next largest creek, stream, or river.