Caribbean Cyclone Cartography: Mapping histories, narratives and futures of hurricane 'resilience' in a changing climate.

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths College
Department Name: Anthropology


When category-5 Hurricane Maria made landfall in Dominica (Eastern Caribbean, population 71,293) on 18th September 2017 - killing 31 people, disappearing 37 people, damaging 90% of buildings and costing an estimated US$ 1.3 billion/226% of GDP - this environmentally and economically vulnerable Small Island Developing State was left in chaos, without national planning measures to ensure a clear course to recovery. Thus, besides limited humanitarian aid, Dominicans survived Maria by improvising meals from stockpiled food, assembling work crews to clear debris, telling cathartic stories to ease stress and using remittances to rebuild homes. They survived, through social modes of resilience.

Months later, the government vowed to make Dominica -the most mountainous island in the region with perhaps the greatest number of environmental hazards per square mile - the 'first climate resilient nation on earth', launching the Climate Resilience Execution Agency of Dominica (CREAD) and a 'National Resilience Development Strategy' (aligned to the UN 2030 Sustainable Development and Sendai agendas) to 'climate proof' the island's housing, infrastructure, energy and tourism sectors. Yet, despite this macroscale 'resilience turn', very little is known about the micro - individual, household and community level - adaptations that enabled Dominicans to survive Maria, Erika (2015) and earlier storms. Nor is there a critical high-level conversation what this ubiquitous term, 'resilience', means to everyday Dominicans - notably marginalized groups (Dominican youth, female farmers, indigenous people and displaced communities).

Towards creating a more inclusive understanding of cyclone preparation, response and recovery, the CCC project will develop collaborative methodologies that explore lived understandings of what 'building back better' might mean in local terms. This multi-disciplinary approach to such 'vernacular resiliencies' is intended to complement and critically enhance the CREAD agenda, holistically mapping survivor-led recoveries - past, present and future. But why mapping? We believe maps do not simply represent the world; they guide our experience of it.

We will investigate and visually map cyclone resilience 'from below' by using the following research methods:

- Oral, archival and architectural enquiry into hurricane histories.
- Contemporary community-led digital storytelling and ethnography of life and livelihoods after Maria (with an emphasis on marginalized experiences).
- Citizen-led GIS survey and cartographies of hazards, shelters and response agencies across the island.

The research will produce the following outputs:

An online hurricane 'resilience' map of Dominica - documenting historic and recent storm recoveries; and plotting hazard sites, shelters and support agencies to reduce future risks to wellbeing. A map that is publicly accessible, informative and easy to navigate - for citizen, policy maker and scholar alike.

A series of multi-stakeholder symposia, research enskillment workshops and practice-based interventions - to build research capacities, share models of best practice (both indigenous and scientific) across scales, specialisms and sectors.
A cluster of public project film screenings, a visual arts exhibition and Caribbean Climate Conversations podcast/radio show - to showcase key outputs to Dominican, British, Jamaican and international publics (promoting informed ecological citizenship).

An online digital hub - an archive of research outputs to stand as a public cyclone resilience resource; and a blog space to offer a home for the pre-existing (but at present piecemeal) public conversation on disaster resilience that is ongoing in the Caribbean.

A series of project investigator publications - academic articles, publicly disseminated info-zines and an edited book featuring research outcomes

Planned Impact

CCC responds to three global development agendas: The UN SDGs (4 and 13), Sendai Priorities (2 and 4) and 'The Humanitarian Grand Bargain' (Point 6); and Dominica's 'National Resilience Development Strategy 2030' (which draws on the Sendai and UN 2030 for Sustainable Development agendas). To meet these challenges the project will:

- Create opportunities for marginalised and environmentally vulnerable people in lower income countries to research disaster recoveries, enhance their climate change hazard knowledge and learn adaptation strategies.

- Question the limitations of official donor-led resilience agendas and invite consideration of how these might be complemented by marginalised survivor knowledges, strategies and experiences.

- Increase awareness among publics and policy makers of various forms of 'vernacular climatic resiliencies' to inform preparedness policy, and thus improve safety, recovery and wellbeing.

- Strengthen the capabilities of non-academic partners in civil society and educational organisations to use oral history, visual ethnography, arts practice and peer-to-peer agricultural learning methods to share climate resilience knowledge and, thus, promote wellbeing via hurricane preparedness and recovery strategies.

- Challenge architects, builders and farmers to explore how their practices can mitigate cyclone related hazards and offer sustainable (building/agricultural) solutions to living with climatic uncertainty.

To meet these goals CCC will fulfil the following impact objectives:

1. Engage citizens from marginalised groups and ecologically vulnerable communities in research methods workshops and produce collaborative research projects. Such workshops will increase wellbeing by expanding knowledge of climate change, cyclone risks and recoveries; and speaking to CREAD, Disaster Management and humanitarian policies and practice 'from below'.

2. Host a series of survivor-led capacity building interventions on the themes of resilient vernacular architecture, agricultural adaption, citizen science and rethinking resilience through the creative arts. These interventions will be sector-specific, public-facing and draw local and regional user groups (e.g. construction consultants, farmer cooperatives or artist collectives) into knowledge exchanges and dialogues to practically guide and realise local sustainable development. Outputs will include exhibitions, printed info-zines and a peer-to-peer field farm school.

3. The Climate Conversations Podcast will cultivate national and international public dialogue on cyclone risks, recoveries and resilience in the Caribbean. It will be posted on SoundCloud to maximise international access and pitched to national radio stations to promote local engagement. The podcast will feature research collaborators, students, academic and civil society partners, government (incl. CREAD) and development agency staff to offer inclusive conversations on cyclone resilience and opportunities for preparedness education.

4. Convene a series impact events and exhibitions throughout the project. These include multiparty stakeholder symposia, bringing together academic and non-academic partners with government and development policy actors. These will include more inward facing strategic round table talks and open events for wider constituencies such as international and local academic colleagues, students, social workers and agriculturalists.

5. The website and final map are the ultimate outcomes of the project, offering a user-friendly resilience map of Dominica: charting past storm recoveries, survivor narratives and locating future hazards to foster preparedness. The map will be open access, thus internationally and locally accessible to citizens, scholars, and policy makers and humanitarian teams; and will cement project legacy as a practical tool and archive for cyclone adaptation.


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