Institutt for sosialantropologi
master's thesis

After the Flood. Reflections on the Socility of Saltwater Inundation on an Anthropogenic Atoll


Master's thesis submitted at Department of Social Anthropology, spring 2016

By: Are Erik Brandvik
Supervisor: Professor Edvard Hviding

This thesis examines how Marshall Islanders live with climate change related events such as extreme weather, with specific emphasis on the 3–5 March flood of 2014. Flood events such as these in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) provide significant watershed moments around which the rhythm of everyday life becomes drastically altered. In order to help us better understand the human dimensions of climate change, and the rapid and violent change that occasionally accompanies it, this thesis proposes an experimental reinterpretation of Donna J. Haraway’s cyborg myth; in the hope that the blurring of boundaries that accompanies a cyborg hybrid will do our understandings of the social dimensions of climate change some good. While climate change certainly is environmental, its effects are equally social (and intimately so); however often the social aspects disappear in a sea of overly environmentally focused reports.

Furthermore, whoever visits a Marshallese atoll will be struck by its anthropogenic elements; most of the environment, flora, and fauna, owe its current existence to prolonged human interaction. These atolls are in other words profoundly anthropogenic, and this realization lies at the core of this thesis. Lastly, it is difficult (if not impossible) to relate to the larger anthropological debate on climate change, from the standpoint of RMI, without accounting for Peter Rudiak-Gould’s book Climate Change and Tradition in a Small Island State: The Rising Tide. This thesis can therefore be seen as somewhat complimentary to Rudiak-Gould’s book; as the thesis examines the post-disaster impacts of climate change on everyday life, whereas the book deals with a pre-disaster analysis of Marshallese narratives related to the idea of climate change.