Anthropology Seminar Series 2023 | The Socio-Environmental Dynamics of a Climate Change Posterchild: Vulnerabilities and Creativities on a Vanuatu Island | Tom Bratrud, University of Oslo
Anthropology Seminar Series:
The Socio-Environmental Dynamics of a Climate Change Posterchild: Vulnerabilities and Creativities on a Vanuatu Island
Speaker: Tom Bratrud, University of Oslo
A02, Room 441 and Zoom
Low-lying Pacific islands are among the places on Earth most vulnerable to climate change, including sea level rise, draught and intensified hurricanes. However, Pacific islanders are also known for their creative capacity to respond to drastically changed life circumstances, whether they are caused by environmental hazards or colonialism. Ahamb Island, where I have conducted ethnographic research since 2010, is often held up as the poster child for Vanuatu’s vulnerability to climate change and its already felt effects. This vulnerability has its physical manifestation in a strong erosion of the island’s north-western coastline and its low-lying profile making it severely exposed to hurricanes, rough sea and rising sea levels. In the paper, I demonstrate how ‘climate change’ as an idea as much as a thing has real effects on Ahamb e.g. in the channeling of real resources via aid programmes earmarking funds for climate change work. However, most importantly, I discuss concrete ethnographic cases of hazards similar to manifestations of climate change with the aim of showcasing people’s real, not merely potential, vulnerabilities, creativities and agencies in climate change related situations.
Tom Bratrud is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo. He was a visiting scholar at the Bergen Pacific Studies Research Group in 2016 and has collaborated with the group since planning his MA fieldwork in 2009.
Bratrud has conducted a total of 20 months of anthropological research in Vanuatu since 2010, mainly on Ahamb Island in Malekula. His work deals with values, social life and political dynamics.
Bratrud’s monograph Fire on the Island: Fear, Hope and a Christian Revival in Vanuatu (published in 2022 by Berghahn Books) examines a startling Christian revival that developed on Ahamb in 2014 in the wake of enduring political disputes. The revival was led by around 30 children with spiritual vision and had as its aim to move society away from capriciousness and sin into the divine will of God. The revival had a dramatic turn when two men, claimed to be sorcerers and responsible for the island community’s problems, were killed. The book’s main theoretical contribution is how fear and hope are powerful emotional experiences working together to mobilize people who are longing for change. For more information, visit https://pacific.w.uib.no/people/current-group-members/tom-bratrud/.