As a broadly trained human geographer, my research interests are wide-ranging and interdisciplinary. Over the years, I have written on a diverse range of subjects, including rural agrarian change, sustainable tourism development, environmental justice, and global change. Alongside my core research interests, I routinely engage discourses and debates rooted in socio-spatial theory and the geo-humanities. My current research is situated at the nexus of critical development studies, political ecology, science and technology studies and postcolonial thought. A key focus of this research to date has been to explore the development and justice implications of global change for coupled human and natural systems in the Caribbean, including the ability of these systems to withstand or adjust to these changes in an ever-changing, interconnected and increasingly complex world.
Current projects can be organized under two main thematic areas. The first thematic area, which forms the bulk of my work to date, explores issues of agrarian change, rural development and the uneven socio-ecological consequences of global change. A major focus of this research is to highlight the shifting and highly uneven nature of Caribbean farmers’ vulnerability to forces of global economic and environmental change. My research shows that smallholder farmers in the Caribbean are among the most vulnerable to both present-day and projected future climate change impacts. Their vulnerability is made worse by the debilitating effects of global market forces and the underlying structural legacies that have been handed down over the centuries from a colonial past that was antithetical to the development and expansion of a local peasantry. My recent research on coffee farmers in the Jamaican Blue Mountains examines smallholder farmer vulnerability which is manifesting in persistently low coffee harvests in the region. I contend that these smallholders’ vulnerability results from a confluence of factors including impacts from extreme weather events, plant pests and diseases, and institutional and market restrictions. The impacts of these factors are compounded by low resource endowments and bounded knowledge systems that limit the capacity of individual farmers to manage these persistent challenges.
I have sought to expand this line of research by exploring the various adaptation strategies being employed and promoted amongst Caribbean farmers through different science-based and community level initiatives. A major objective with this line of research has been to evaluate and define feasible response pathways for the region's agriculture sector, including the use of new participatory and scientific methods for identifying resistant varieties of locally important crops and enhancing the application of climate services. A key aspect of this research has been its interdisciplinary and collaborative focus. Almost all of these initiatives have seen me working alongside researchers in the natural and applied sciences, and have been informed by discourses and praxis rooted in the social sciences and the humanities.
The second strand of research reflects new and growing interest in exploring the ways recent ‘natural’ disasters in the Caribbean and the ensuing recovery efforts have become intertwined with underlying issues of uneven development, inequality, non/sovereignty and ongoing post/colonial struggles. I am part of a small but growing cadre of scholars and activists seeking to attend to and complicate the apparent connection between ‘natural’ disasters, predatory capitalism and post/colonial legacies in the Caribbean. A key focus of this growing body of scholarship involves exploring the ways these post/disaster landscapes become the means for reifying and extending existing (post/colonial) power relations and hegemonic practices on one hand, and an avenue for the promotion and accumulation of new (and not-so-new) forms of private capital increasingly premised around notions of resilience and ‘build back better’ on the other.
I am also the editor for Geography Compass (Development Section) and serve on the international editorial boards for the Royal Geographical Society/Institute of British Geographers Wiley Book Series and the Caribbean Geography Journal. I also recently served as a Contributing Author for Chapter 4, for the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C.
Recent Publications (Selected):
• Rhiney, K. 2018. Recipe for resilience? Tracing the biopolitics of Sint Maarten’s recovery efforts after Maria”, Journal of Extreme Events. DOI: 10. 1142/S234573761840002X
• Rhiney, K. Climate Change and the Future of Agriculture in the Caribbean: Prospects for South-South Cooperation. In E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and P. Daley (Eds.), Handbook on South-South Relations. London: Routledge. Chapter 16.
• Rhiney, K., Eitzinger, A., Farrell, A. & Praeger, S. 2018. Assessing the biophysical and socio-economic consequences of a 1.5C world on Jamaica’s agriculture sector, Regional Environmental Change.doi:10.1007/s10113-018-1409-4
• Lester, S. & Rhiney, K. 2018. Going beyond basic access to improved water sources: Towards deriving a water accessibility index, Habitat International HAB1852
• Tomlinson, J. & Rhiney, K. 2018. Experiential learning as a tool for farmer engagement and empowerment in a changing regional climate, Caribbean Quarterly, https://doi.org/10.1080/00086495.2018.1435342
• Tomlinson, J. & Rhiney, K. 2018. Assessing the Role of Farmer Field Schools in Promoting Pro-Adaptive Behavior and Attitude Toward Climate Change in Jamaica, Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 8(1): 86-98.
• Guido, Z., Finan, T., Rhiney, K., Roundtree, V., Johnson, E. & McCook, G. 2017. The stresses and dynamics of smallholder coffee systems in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains: A case for the potential role of climate services, Climatic Change, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-2125-7
• Rhiney, K., Eitzinger, A., Farrell, A.D. & Taylor, M.A. 2017. Assessing the vulnerability of Caribbean farmers to climate change impacts: a comparative study of cocoa farmers in Jamaica and Trinidad. In E. Thomas-Hope (Ed.) Climate Change and Food Security: Africa and the Caribbean. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 59-69.
• Barker, D., McGregor, D., Rhiney, K. & T. Edwards. 2016. Global Change and the Caribbean: Adaptation and Resilience. Kingston: The University of the West Indies Press [Book]
• Beckford, C. & Rhiney, K. 2016. Globalization, Agriculture and Food in the Caribbean: Climate Change, Gender and Geography. London: Palgrave-Macmillan [Book]
• Rhiney, K., Campbell, D. & Barker, D. 2016. Geographies of Vulnerability and Resilience of Rural Farming Communities in Jamaica to Climate Variability and Change: A Comparative Analysis. In D. Barker, D. McGregor, K. Rhiney & T. Edwards (Eds.), Global Change and the Caribbean: Adaptation and Resilience. Kingston: The University of the West Indies Press, pp. 89-114.
• Baptiste, A.K. & Rhiney, K. 2016. Climate justice and the Caribbean: An introduction, Geoforum 73 (1), pp. 17-21
• Rhiney, K. 2016. From Plantations to Services: A Historical and Theoretical Assessment of the Transition from Agrarian to Service-based Industries in the Caribbean. In C. Beckford and K. Rhiney (Eds.) Globalization, Agriculture and Food in the Caribbean: Climate Change, Gender and Geography. London: Palgrave-Macmillan, pp. 23-50.
• Smith, R. & Rhiney, K. 2015. Climate Change, Vulnerability, Land and Livelihoods: The case of the Black Caribs in Northeastern St. Vincent, Geoforum 73 (1), pp. 22-31
• Rhiney, K. 2015. Geographies of Vulnerability in a Changing Climate: Lessons from the Caribbean, Geography Compass, 9(3), pp. 97-114. ** My publications can be accessed via ResearchGate. See my CV for full list of publications
381:101 Introduction to Environmental Studies
450:311 Natural Hazards and Disasters
450:335 Caribbean Borderlands
450:602 Research Design (Graduate Seminar)
Zoe Alexander, MA (current, co-advising with Richard Schroeder)
Tashanna Walker, Ph.D. (current)