Accepted paper:

Tales of the whale: climate change, sense of place, and Açoreanidade (Azorean cultural identity)


Chie Sakakibara (Appalachian State University )

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the growth of sense of place/cultural identity among the Azorean islanders in response to climate change.

Paper long abstract:

This is a study in human geography that explores how the people in the Azores of Portugal, particularly those on the Pico and Faial Islands, maintain their cultural pride and heritage as People of the Whales in the face of climate change, altered whale behaviors, and new human relationships with the sea and place. Exploring Azorean views of sense of place, cultural transformation and environmental change, I compare their efforts with those of the indigenous Iñupiaq people of Arctic Alaska, many of whom are descents of the Azorean whalers. As the effects of climate change take hold among rural Azorean and Alaskan communities, the role and place of whales in sustaining ethnic identities becomes greater, and among the Iñupiaq provides the cornerstone of cultural resilience that people embrace to imagine a hopeful future. Cultural response among the Azoreans is both similar and different to the extent that their understanding of the whale is different from the Iñupiaq example, and further understanding on the Azorean cultural identity—Açoreanidade (Azoreanness)—will be a key to interpret the unforeseeable future among the islanders. The peoples of the Azores and Arctic Alaska are both Peoples of the Whales whose identities are inseparable from their relationship with cetaceans, yet this relationship is also intricately entangled with any historical, political, and environmental change. Highlighting the current growth of Açoreanidade, this study explains how abstract and modeled notions of climate change impact livelihoods and cultural identity among real peoples and places.

panel P313
Practices of environmental justice: negotiating the relation between the social and the ecological sphere