Indigenous Design Knowledge and Placemaking in the Climate Diaspora
Climate change forced displacement and resettlement is becoming a pressing topic as the impacts of sea level rise, drought, and severe tropical storms increasingly impact communities’ livelihoods. As communities and entire nations are forced to resettle, how will basic social and cultural structures be maintained? The transportation of resilient socio-cultural patterns becomes essential for maintaining the health and well-being of a community. Thus, the investigation of the dialectic relationship between culture and the built- environment is essential in the Anthropocene. Through a multi-sited case study of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, this paper demonstrates the use of Indigenous Knowledge within the production of the built environment to negotiate the relationships between the social world, the natural world, and the colonial world. Three communities were studied spanning rural, peri-urban, and urban environments in order to demonstrate the application of Indigenous Knowledge across space and time in the production of the builtenvironment. Participant observation, unstructured interviews, mental mapping exercises, site documentation, and aerial mapping were among the methods used for data collection in order to triangulate evidence. A framework of six systems of Indigenous Design Knowledge were uncovered; each have aided the Marshallese in the production of culturally-supportive environments in the face of colonization, urbanization, and the imposition of U.S. imperialism. While further investigation in the cultural production of space in the Marshallese Diaspora is required, it is argued that this framework of Marshallese Design Knowledge should be employed in the planning, design, and management of any future resettlement proposal to assist communities in the maintenance of healthy socio-cultural patterns through the cultural production of the built-environment. Furthermore, the methods and approach taken in this study demonstrate a useful framework for investigating the dialectic relationship between culture and the built- environment for other climate diasporas.