Perceptions of nature in the Caribbean island of Dominica
Yarde, Therese Natalie
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The Commonwealth of Dominica has acquired a reputation as the nature island of the Caribbean. This thesis sets out to explore how Dominicans perceive and relate to nature in their nature island. It considers these perceptions and relationships as consisting not only of people’s cognitive and intellectual constructions of nature, but as also comprising their practices in and embodied engagements with the natural world. A key premise underlying this work is that people’s ideas about and relationships to nature go beyond the discursive: they arise in and from historical, geographical and social contexts, but also emerge through particular personal encounters and experiences. So, for example, tourism and conservation are two prominent means by which Western constructs and discourse of nature are brought to bear in Dominica in the present day, but they also provide opportunities for engagement with the natural world and for the cultivation and expression of experiential knowledge. The focus on engagement and experience is consonant with Dominicans’ thoughts about what it means to know and understand nature, in which considerable emphasis is placed on practical knowledge and knowledge by acquaintance. Further investigation of ideas of nature, through the use of selected collateral concepts, shows how Dominicans think about nature and certain relationships with nature as being an integral part of “what Dominica is about”. Correspondingly, Dominica can be seen as providing the context and framework for their notions of what nature is about. The findings of this sort of place-based empirical investigation can be useful to the formulation of nature-related policies, in that such policies are more likely to have practical purchase if they are seen to be germane to local ideas of and relationships to nature. Research of this kind can also provide new answers to the interesting philosophical question: what is nature?