The Influence of Place Attachment, Aspirations, and Rapidly Changing Environments on Resettlement Decisions
Strong II, Michael Lee
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Resettlement associated with development projects results in a variety of negative impacts. This dissertation uses the resettlement context to frame the dynamic relationships formed between peoples and places experiencing development. Two case studies contribute: (a) the border zone of Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park where residents contend with changes to land access and use; and (b) Bairro Chipanga in Moatize, Mozambique where a resettled population struggles to form place attachment and transform the post-resettlement site into a “good” place. Through analysis of data collected at these sites between 2009 and 2015, this dissertation investigates how changing environments impact person-place relationships before and after resettlement occurs. Changing environments create conditions leading to disemplacement—feeling like one no longer belongs—that reduces the environment’s ability to foster place attachment. Research findings indicate that responses taken by individuals living in the changing environment depend heavily upon whether resettlement has already occurred. In a pre-resettlement context, residents adjust their daily lives to diminish the effects of a changing environment and re-create the conditions to which they initially formed an attachment. They accept impoverishing conditions, including a narrowing of the spaces in which they live their daily lives, because it is preferred to the anxiety that accompanies being forced to resettle. In a post-resettlement context, resettlement disrupts the formation of place attachment and resettled peoples become a placeless population. When the resettlement has not resulted in anticipated outcomes, the aspiration for social justice—seeking conditions residents had reason to expect—negatively influences residents’ perspectives about the place. The post-resettlement site becomes a bad place with a future unchanged from the present. At best, this results in a population in which more members are willing to move away from the post-resettlement site, and, at worse, complete disengagement of other members from trying to improve the community. Resettlement thus has the potential to launch a cycle of movement- displacement-movement that prevents an entire generation from establishing place attachment and realizing its benefits. At the very least, resettlement impedes the formation of place attachment to new places. Thus, this dissertation draws attention to the unseen and uncompensated losses of resettlement.