Waterlines: Confluence and Hope through Environmental Communication. The 15th biennial Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE). June 17-21, 2019, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Ecocultural Adjustment: A Peace Corps Sojourn

Melissa Parks's picture
Parks, Melissa Michelle
Category of presentation: 
Scholarly papers

This essay interweaves narrative with extant theory in order to challenge and extend the conventionally anthropocentric framing of cultural adjustment. I examine cultural adjustment through an ecocultural lens, reconceptualizing the process as ecocultural adjustment, which combines both cultural factors with environmental (both human-constructed and ecological) elements in the process of sojourner adaptation. I weave journal and blog entries into my own retrospective personal narrative and extant theory, performatively re-exploring my 26-month sojourn with the US Peace Corps in Malawi, Africa, as well as my departure and return to the United States. Over the course of this reflective process, I explore and problematize the human-nature divide currently dominating the anthropocentric understandings of intercultural adjustment experiences.  This performative piece challenges and extends the conventionally anthropocentric framing of the psycho-social phenomena of cultural adjustment and shock, which largely ignores and erases the impact of the environment on the transitioning human body. This work points to the profound need to reemphasize connections to the earth and reimagine the cultural adjustment process as one of both mind and body, of culture and ecology—as not simply cultural adjustment, but as ecocultural adjustment.