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Humanities for the Environment Key Researcher Anne Claus

Anne Claus

Over the past 40 years in southwestern Okinawa, views of the sea and ino (nearshore coral reefs) have shifted as this region has become a site of stewardship among coastal residents. Village life shapes and is shaped by the coral reef in multiple dimensions. Spiritual interests in the nearshore sea result in engagements with the sea during annual festivals and in daily prayers, occasions during which the nearshore sea (ino) becomes a site for purification and protection. At the same time, Shiraho village has emerged as a cohesive target of mainland scientific and tourist interest because of its presentation as an eco-village with a strong “coral reef culture.” Past and present articulations of Shiraho as a cohesive village shaped by its coral reef are conditioned by demographic changes that have brought increasing numbers of newcomers from mainland Japan. Two recent conservation projects involve residents in new kinds of material engagements with the ino, and I examine how the Sunday Market and periodic walks provide the platform for self-reflective enforcement of a village sense of place as well as aspirational place-making by mainland Japanese conservationists.