Climate Migration and Cultural Preservation: The Case of the Marshallese Diaspora

Potential land loss in Pacific island countries from rising sea levels raises many concerns regarding how nation states will continue to function politically and economically in the event of climate-induced relocation of their populations. This piece expands that conversation, addressing the impacts of relocation on cultural heritage, drawing on data from interviews with migrants from the Marshall Islands to the United States. The study seeks to understand the challenges and opportunities of cultural preservation among the Marshallese diaspora. Marshallese accounts of life in the United States indicate many opportunities for cultural preservation, particularly for those living in communities with large Marshallese populations, while also presenting challenges based on social, economic, and geographic differences between the U.S. and the Marshall Islands. Understanding the means through which Marshallese migrants maintain cultural traditions and the challenges current migrants face, can help us address potentially irreversible, but avoidable losses of cultural traditions in the event of mass displacement.

Associated space

Marshall Islands

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