Tuesday, November 15, 2016 | 7 p.m. | UPEI Main Building Faculty Lounge, UPEI
Dr. Jean Mitchell presents Island Studies November Lecture:
Stories of Weathering Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu: Leaf-houses, Flying Foxes, and Body Bags
The November Island Studies Lecture featured Dr. Jean Mitchell sharing Stories of Weathering Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu: Leaf-houses, Flying Foxes, and Body Bags.
With winds up to 300 kph, Cyclone Pam was the largest cyclone to make landfall in the South Pacific islands since recordkeeping started. It struck the island of Vanuatu on March 13, 2015, leaving in its wake enormous losses of infrastructure, housing, animals, and food gardens. The ferocity and destructiveness of Cyclone Pam spurs questions about climate change and the effects of global warming and sea-level rise in the South Pacific Islands. Another key question also emerges: why did so few islanders die during the cyclone and its aftermath? Drawing on recent interviews with Islanders from the southern islands of Erromango and Tanna, which were literally in the eye of the storm, this presentation recounts stories from those Islanders about the cyclone and its aftermath. How social relationships, the gift/kastom economies, local knowledge, and the ways in which nature and culture are entangled in Vanuatu offer powerful insights into how to survive a cyclone.
Jean Mitchell, an associate professor of Anthropology at UPEI, has been working in Vanuatu for 20 years and has also conducted research in Kiribati and Solomon Islands. Prior to working in the Pacific she worked with the UN in India for five years. In Vanuatu she started the Young People’s Project at the Vanuatu Cultural Centre. Her research interests include post-colonialism, youth, gender, health and urbanization. She has co-edited several volumes of essays on L.M. Montgomery and has been researching the Presbyterian Missionary history that connects Vanuatu and Prince Edward Island. She has, together with Vanuatu Cultural Centre, recently started a project on local knowledge, youth and the ecologies of gardens in Tanna and Erromango.