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Islandness: Vulnerability and resilience in Oceania

Pacific and other islands have long been represented as sites of vulnerability. Despite this, communities on many Pacific islands survived for millennia prior to the intrusion of people from Europe into their realm. An examination of traditional disaster reduction measures indicates that traditional Pacific island communities coped with many of the effects of extreme events that today give rise to relief and rehabilitation programmes. Key elements of traditional disaster reduction were built around food security (production of surpluses, storage and preservation, agro-ecological biodiversity, famine foods and land fragmentation), settlement security (elevated sites and resilient structures) and inter- and intra-community cooperation (inter-island exchange, ceremony and consumption control). Many of these practices have been lost or are no longer employed, while other changes in the social and economic life of Pacific island communities are increasing the level of exposure to natural extremes. Pacific islands, and their inhabitants, are not essentially or inherently vulnerable. They were traditionally sites of resilience. Colonialism, development and globalisation have set in place processes by which the resilience has been reduced and exposure increased.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Campbell, J. (2009). Islandness: Vulnerability and resilience in Oceania. Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures, 3, 85-97.
Macquarie University, Australia
This is the published version of an article published in the journal: Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures. Used with permission.