Conversing with Island Mangroves
: Towards a New Story of Humanity’s Relationship with the Earth

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The old story of humanity’s relationship with planet Earth, one characterised by domination, disposability and inattention to equilibrium, no longer serves us. Humanity needs a New Story about its relationship with the Earth for the age of the Anthropocene in order to cultivate responses to environmental change which are not rooted in fear. This thesis contributes to the project of writing that New Story through a narrative inquiry into the concerns and responses of islanders from Fiji, Mauritius and St Lucia to their changing environmental conditions.
Grounded in Deleuze’s concepts of multiplicity, the rhizome and mapping, the thesis draws further inspiration from Pacific Island concepts of Sokota (voyaging) and Talanoa (dialogic inquiry) methodology. The narrative analysis brings together the contributions of a range of participants, gathered over the course of six site visits to Fiji, Mauritius and St Lucia, by creating a set of conversations within a metaphorical mangrove forest. This mangrove forest represents the multiplicity of local perspectives in these islands and becomes the site of conversation and story-telling. As such, it becomes a literary tool through which the inquiry’s participants, who are otherwise mostly unknown to each other, are connected on the page through sharing folktales and discussion of current experiences and offering insights and messages to others.
The conversations answer three primary questions: what are the pressing environmental concerns in these island nations; what have been some of the responses to those concerns; and, what are the messages that islanders wish to convey to themselves and others regarding what actions need taking. Through these conversations, a number of themes arise, including trust in nature, resisting fear, identifying barriers to resilience, citizen led responses to environmental issues and an approach to blending different knowledges for strengthened responses.
As well as contributing elements of a New Story of humanity’s relationship with the Earth, the thesis offers a methodological contribution to the global pursuit of that New Story. It first listens to a multiplicity of perspectives, then engages in conversations before going deeper to acknowledge that matters of human equity underpin today’s environmental issues. It builds and presents its analysis using metaphor and through constructing dialogue in order to blend different knowledges. It argues that the development of a New Story about humanity’s relationship with the Earth is one that must be collectively written and shared in order to meet the environmental challenges of this day, and that narrative inquiry can help us to do this.
Date of Award1 Oct 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorKaren Tucker (Supervisor) & Rich D Pancost (Supervisor)

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