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Representing climate change space: islographs of Tuvalu

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Farbotko, C (2008) Representing climate change space: islographs of Tuvalu. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Tuvalu, an archipelagic nation state in central Oceania, is being transformed
by climate change, particularly sea level rise. Its islands are also being
represented in new ways in climate change discourses such as journalism and
environmentalist campaigns. This research in the interdisciplinary field of
island studies also draws from insights in cultural geography and
anthropology to examine representations ofthe Tuvalu islands in climate
change discourses. The central idea underpinning the work's analytical
framework is the islograph, taken to be coherent suites of island
representations and their constitutive roles in relations of power. In a
significant discursive moment in which climate change is being understood as
the global environmental crisis, Tuvalu is taking on new meanings that
demand documentation and critical analysis. Such meanings are tied to an
extant and remarkably strong presence of islands in Western discourses.
Analysis of Tuvalu's islographs - many of which are produced by Westerners
engaged in climate change discourses - considers whether and how its islands
are paradoxical spaces and mechanisms of relational identity construction that
function as mirrors of the self and a means of identity construction in relation
to distant and different others. Islographs of Tuvalu that are analysed in detail
in this work include the following: Mark Lynas' popular science monograph
High Tide, which aims to redefine Tuvalu as a frontier of climate change and
a spur to action on climate change at the global level; various activities of
environmentalist non-government organisation Alofa Tuvalu which try to
reposition Tuvalu as the rightful space in which global lessons for sustainable living are to be learned; Sydney Morning Herald articles, where, as the islands
disappear, Tuvaluans are transformed into environmental refugees and yet
Western tourists are also urged to turn a voyeuristic eye towards the
'disappearing islands'; and interviews with participants in climate change
discourses. I demonstrate that in such discourses Tuvalu's islographs are
structured by a paradox: its islands constituted as separate from and yet
embedded in global climate change trajectories; its inhabitants simultaneously
identified as subjects of compassion and objects of voyeurism. Such a paradox
is embodied in recurring images of Tuvalu as valuable yet expendable - the
'canary in the coalmine' of climate change for Earth. Meanwhile, among
professionals in Tuvalu who are engaged in climate change debate -
politicians, bureaucrats, community elders, educators, journalists, and pastors
- attempts are being made to reclaim Tuvalu as inherently valuable space.
Their islographs link Tuvalu to the rest of planet Earth - not in service to it as
a litmus test, but connected to and embedded in common rights and
responsibilities of humanity to advance environmental stewardship and
cultural diversity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Deposited: 08 Aug 2011 06:02
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:53
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