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  • Writer's pictureMichael Roman


The question "Where are you from?" often challenges me. While I typically mention being born in New York, this hardly provides the full context of my background. Having resided in ten states, five countries, and seven islands, I've absorbed invaluable lessons from each locale, shaping who I am today. My family's migration story is deeply intertwined with economic and educational pursuits, mirroring the experiences of countless other migrant families striving for better opportunities.

My journey, following in my father's footsteps decades ago, has been marked by profound moments of despair, joy, confusion, and clarity. Unlike pursuing a traditional "good life" centered on stability and material success, my path has been continuous personal and intellectual discovery, transcending geographical boundaries and societal norms.

Returning from Peace Corps service in 2002, I found America transformed, both by my own perspective shift and the seismic events of 9/11, which ushered in an era of heightened vigilance and exclusionism.

As a discipline, anthropology emerged in a world where colonial powers sought to understand and categorize the people they subjugated. Yet, contemporary migration dynamics challenge traditional power structures, often perpetuating social hierarchies in new environments.

The plight of Kiribati migrants, facing displacement due to climate change, highlights the urgent need for global action. As one of the most vulnerable nations to rising sea levels, Kiribati exemplifies the existential threat of environmental degradation.

Under President Anote Tong's leadership, efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change have included initiatives for transnational migration through educational and employment opportunities. However, migration often exacerbates existing inequalities, reinforcing social hierarchies in destination countries.

Through an ethnographic exploration of I-Kiribati migration, this work seeks to foster empathy and understanding towards migrants worldwide, particularly in pressing issues such as climate change and immigration.

By weaving together personal narratives, international volunteer experiences, and environmental realities, this publication offers a nuanced perspective on the interconnectedness of our global community and the imperative to address climate change for the sake of future generations.


The Republic of Kiribati achieved independence on July 12, 1979, marking a significant milestone in its history. Comprising 32 atolls and one raised island, Kiribati is situated in the central Pacific Ocean, spanning three distinct island chains: the Gilberts, Line, and Phoenix Islands. Encompassing an expansive area of 3.5 million km², Kiribati holds the unique distinction of being the only country with territory in all four hemispheres—Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western. This geographical peculiarity contributes to Kiribati's status as one of the world's largest small nations, as noted by Tisdell (2002).

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