Climate Change and the Imagining of Migration: Emerging Discourses on Kiribati's Land Purchase in Fiji

In this article we concentrate on the discursive links between climate change, migration, land, and imagined futures. We argue that the large tract of freehold land purchased by Kiribati's government in Fiji has led citizens in both countries to develop imaginings of migration, which we interpret as building blocks for a cultural construct of the future, in anticipation of projected hazards resulting from climate change and sea level rise. We show that, contrary to official pronouncements that the land had been acquired for reasons of food security, many citizens of Kiribati and Fiji associated the purchase with the option of a future relocation. Thus I-Kiribati have taken to perceiving this property in terms of their concept of land, hoping that, in the event of an existential threat, this new land will allow them to preserve culture, nation, and identity over the long term. Citizens of Fiji, too, rely on their concept of land, as when they see that survival for I-Kiribati will only be possible if they can ground it in a territory of their own. Moreover, the governments of Kiribati and Fiji both engage in a politics of hope that contributed to imaginings of migration. We conclude that the emerging discourses on migration related to the land purchase were fostered by cultural conceptions of land as well as the climate policies of the two Pacific Island states.