Climate Displacement and Placemaking in Middle America


Within the overarching framework of global climate change, this study approaches cultural sustainability in architecture through the study of immigrant place-making in Northwestern Arkansas and the importance of culturally supportive environments. The focus of this paper is the Marshallese immigrant populations, which has been settling in Northwestern Arkansas for more than thirty years and has seen a rapid increase in populations over the past decade for a variety of reasons. This community is becoming the largest Marshallese population outside of the Marshall Islands, and on reason for emigration is the adverse effects of global climate change on the thirty-two atolls of the Marshall Islands. Using the central argument that cultural patterns are manifest within the built-environment, this study aims to demonstrate that the Marshallese population will do what they can to maintain their cultural identity within the built-environment they have available. The dialectic relationship between people and the architecture demonstrates the aspects of the built-environment that provide support for cultural continuity and that hinder cultural continuity. This study employs a qualitative methodology, utilizing participant observation, interviews, and site documentation. Initial findings from preliminary field research and qualitative analysis have revealed that the process of Marshallese place-making in the building landscape of Northwestern Arkansas is marked by cultural conflict, an insular and hidden spatial and aesthetic identity, and a burgeoning desire for land ownership and real estate development.