Andrea M Vega Troncoso
In the face of the disproportionate effects of climate change, forming effective frameworks for discussing the vulnerabilities of small island developing states (SIDS) is more pertinent than ever. However, international development organizations have often used overly generic and ahistorical frameworks for understanding vulnerability, which advocate for increased tourism and coastal development as prescriptions for islands’ development. These ‘solutions’ instead exacerbate local experiences of vulnerability, which alternatively emphasize local epistemologies and histories of inequality and exploitation. This research focuses on community experiences across two resort-town destinations in the Dominican Republic: Bayahibe and Punta Cana. It asks: How is “vulnerability” experienced and understood by coastal communities in the eastern Dominican Republic? By employing ethnographic methods, this study reveals nuanced, in-depth perspectives on vulnerability while foregrounding local knowledges. This research is crucial to understanding the intersecting political, economic, and environmental conditions that SIDS face in the 21st century and how they have been reproduced throughout history, in the hopes of opening doors to imagining alternative development futures in SIDS, where patterns of environmental, economic, and socio-political exploitation are mended.