Living and Learning in a New Culture

During my fieldwork, I have been fortunate enough to become affiliated with the Geology and Geography Department at the University of West Indies Mona Campus here in Kingston. My supervisor at the University of Dundee, Dr Susan Mains was a member of the teaching staff for many years (and sorely missed may I add). It is through her connections that I have been allowed to connect with the academics here, something I am really appreciative of. The staff’s research interests include Environmental Sustainability, Biogeography, Hydrology, Agriculture and Tourism. The campus also boasts a Geo Informatics Department and Disaster Studies Unit which tie in with the hazards element of my work.

On Thursday, I presented at one of the ‘Brown Bag’ sessions that take place in the department on Thursday lunchtimes. This is an opportunity for lecturers and postgraduate students to come together and learn and converse current research occurring in their own department and from outside research community. I was very impressed with the engagement of my audience and the huge amount of feedback, advice and interest in my work. This was especially significant as a majority of those in attendance were native to Jamaica and gaining context specific knowledge from locals is invaluable to my thesis.

One of the many reasons behind choosing to study street-connected young people in Jamaica was the limited amount of literature that I had access to in the United Kingdom from the Jamaican and wider Caribbean context on the topic. In my opinion, this is due to both a greater emphasis on the cause within other regions of the world namely; Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa and additionally a lack of international circulation of some excellent work being done in the Caribbean.

By having access to the facilities here on Mona Campus, I have become more attuned to the perceptions and concerns of Jamaican academics on the subject. Personally, I have also been fortunate to live with a local Jamaican family in Kingston which has been a really positive and insightful experience. Being able to discuss and query events, interactions and ideas with them on a daily basis has been such a bonus and is making my time in Jamaica a much more culturally rich one.

My social background and appearance make it difficult to become completely immersed in Jamaican society but I like to think that I have made a strong effort to engage with the culture and everyday practices of both my young participants and the wider population that I encounter daily. Interestingly friends and colleagues in Jamaica have been equally fascinated in learning about my own cultural background, some aspects of which I may promote this weekend for St Patrick’s Day… 🙂

View from Geography and Geology Department at UWI Mona Campus

View from Geography and Geology Department at UWI Mona Campus

View from Geography and Geology Department at UWI Mona CampusView from Geography and Geology Department at UWI Mona Campus


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About j.r.catterson

A PhD candidate studying within the geography department in the School of Environment at University of Dundee. I am a social geographer with keen interests in street-connected young people, family relationships and disaster management and risk reduction. At present, I am conducting my fieldwork in St Andrews parish and Kingston, Jamaica. Previously studied MSc in Applied Population and Welfare Geography also at the University of Dundee.

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