Fonua cultural statelessness in the Pacific and the effects of climate change
in Statelessness, governance, and the problem of citizenship
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‘Fonua’ refers to a child’s placenta, which is often buried by Pacific nation groups in order to connect that child to their place of birth. When a person leaves, or is forced to leave their place of birth, it disrupts their connection to their homeland. This contributes to the production of cultural statelessness. In the Pacific, cultural statelessness is also tied to legal and political statelessness resulting from a history of forced displacement and labour migration. Today, cultural statelessness is increasingly associated with the impacts of climate change and is increasingly experienced by communities living on low-lying atolls and low-elevation areas of islands in the Pacific Ocean. These communities are on the front line of rising sea levels and extreme weather events caused by anthropogenic climate change. Discussions of statelessness is necessarily complex and intertwined with the governance of labour, history, citizenship and human relationships with the climate. This chapter provides a regional perspective of cultural statelessness and governance; and it explores connectivities that are particular to the Pacific region. However, this narrative also demonstrates how statelessness in the Pacific is tied to questions of global governance.

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