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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Life in the Living Laboratory: An Anthropological Investigation of Environmental Science, Tourism, and Design in the Contemporary Bahamas

  • Author(s): Moore, Amelia M.
  • Advisor(s): Hayden, Cori
  • et al.

This dissertation examines the production of the Bahama islands as a site for interrelated forms of field research, field education, and environmentally oriented tourist visitation. Recent developments in international climate science and politics have cast small islands as particularly vulnerable and susceptible to the threat of global warming and its planetary effects while the global economic crisis is blamed for the downturn in tourist arrival numbers to The Bahamas and for the ever-increasing cost of living in the archipelagic nation. As a result, redesigning the country's tourism product to compete in new travel markets has come to coincide with reconfiguring the country's energy, agricultural, and fishing industries under the sign of island sustainability. The very idea of what it means to be a nation of islands is in question, and the conditions of possibility therein are undergoing dramatic change.

The dissertation has three constitutive themes. First, it shows that recent events in The Bahamas bring into relief the continual reformulation of the experimental space of the Caribbean as field laboratory and site for knowledge production about human social evolution and economic reorganization. My attention to the emergent ecological milieu of islands in crisis highlights this history and the modes of inclusion and exclusion for bringing particular people and ideas of the social into more recent science-based problems. Second, focusing on the increased call for interdisciplinary, integrated environmental research in The Bahamas involving social science, I argue for revisiting the concept of biopolitics. This concept, historically rooted in 19th Century developments concerning the knowledge produced about and the governance of human bodies and populations, loses analytic purchase in an arena where the prefix, "bio," can be interpreted as signifying a scientific rearticulation of the problem and object of biological research in which the life processes of the human and the non-human become holistically co-constituted in particular ways. Finally, this dissertation engages with recent political ecology and scholarship on cultures of nature in order to describe contemporary ecological and conservation science as a nature making practice with political ramifications in The Bahamas, and to bring further attention to a concern for the scientific productions of nature and value within those fields.

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