Sociology and Anthropology Vol. 6(1), pp. 176 - 186
DOI: 10.13189/sa.2018.060115
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Perceptions of the Radiation Disaster from H-bomb Testing: Subsistence Economy, Knowledge and Network among the People of Rongelap in the Marshall Islands


Satoe Nakahara *
Chukyo University, Nagoya, Japan

ABSTRACT

This paper considers the various perceptions of victims of radiation and the suffering they experience from the radiation disaster. Many studies have been conducted on the adverse impacts of radiation. However, the discomfort and anxieties experienced by people were often ignored or dismissed as anecdotal evidence or emotionalism with no policy relevance. In this paper, findings are described from long-term work with the Rongelap community documenting the impact of radiation exposure from US nuclear testing as measured by changes in behavior and language. This paper shows that ecosystem changes from H-bomb radiation rendered traditional forms of knowledge about the natural environment meaningless; this is not to be confused with a loss of explicit knowledge, but it means that the knowledge is no longer applicable to the current situation. 'The people of Rongelap, Rongerik, and Ailinginae, like other Marshallese, had a keen understanding of local environmental conditions, resources, and ecosystemic dynamics. Ecosystem knowledge was essential to survival. Atoll resources provided water, food building materials, tools, transportation, medicine, toys, and ceremonial items.' In other words, nuclear testing resulted in the loss of some kinds of cultural knowledge. This is important to understand, because subsistence societies require more than uncontaminated natural resources to thrive. They also require knowledge of the natural environment. Simply transplanting a living culture to another location of similar size and geographic position does not work.

KEYWORDS
The Marshall Islands, Atomic Bomb Testing, Radiation Perception, Network, Life Style, Knowledge

Cite this paper
Satoe Nakahara . "Perceptions of the Radiation Disaster from H-bomb Testing: Subsistence Economy, Knowledge and Network among the People of Rongelap in the Marshall Islands." Sociology and Anthropology 6.1 (2018) 176 - 186. doi: 10.13189/sa.2018.060115.