UH Hilo communication professor offers outlet for expression about lava flow in Puna

Residents of Lower Puna and others are invited to submit original essays, articles, research papers, photos, poems, stories and art work for possible inclusion in a book.

By Susan Enright.

Catherine Becker
Catherine Becker

Catherine Becker, an associate professor of communication at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, says the recent lava flow in Lower Puna that threatens to cut off access roads to the area, is a site where worlds collide–spiritual, cultural, political, economic, and natural.

“Within this contested zone of myriad paradigms and perspectives, opportunities for new collaborations are forged,” she says.

The crisis in Puna has inspired her to develop a book that documents the discourse of residents and others regarding the impact. She’s asking for submissions for possible inclusion in the work.

Becker researches the ways that communication contributes to the transformation of individuals and systems, for example, organizational, cultural, or family systems. She is known for her creative approaches to exploring communication and transformation. She encourages conversations among people who don’t usually speak to one another about topics they may be reluctant to discuss but that need to be addressed.

She says when people are encouraged to listen to the stories of others and share their own, there is an opportunity for dialogue, healing, and transformation. This is what she wants to help facilitate about the crisis in Puna.

“The goal of this edited book is to offer a forum for information and expression, civil discussion, and communication regarding the flow and its implications,” she says. “The goal is to document this critical historical moment and its revolutionary-evolutionary potential.”

Exploring the impact of the flow is personal for Becker. She feels close to the community because she has lived in Puna and her daughter attended elementary and middle schools there.

“We have many close connections in the community,” she explains. “I also have a long standing passion for Pele and her stories. So I have been following the (lava flow) situation very closely.”

For the book project, Becker has conducted a preliminary content analysis of the discussions on several social networking sites that address the flow and has found extremely different interpretations of what it means and how to manage the situation. She will serve as editor on the book that she says will provide a forum for people to share and discuss these various perspectives.

She hopes the book, with the working title, Views of Pele: Collisions, Collaboration, and Community, will attract authors that represent the wide variety of perspectives regarding the meaning of the lava flow and how to address the inevitable changes it is bringing to the island.

“In addition to alternative transportation, energy, housing and food, sustainability is also about social justice,” she says. “The book will provide a venue that encourages dialogue and communication about these issues.”

She says possible sections of the book are about history (and “herstory”), Hawaiian perspectives, and sustainability.

Call for submissions

The call for submissions for the book is on Becker’s Facebook page called Pele and the Puna Lava Flow: Collisions, Collaboration, and Community. The site has evolved into a source of information for the community.

“Please consider submitting original essays, articles, research papers, photos, poems, stories and art work for possible inclusion,” she asks of Puna residents, UH Hilo faculty and students, and others who may be watching from the distance.

Send or email your submission for review by January 31, 2015 to Catherine Becker, Department of Communication, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, 200 West Kāwili Street, Hilo, HI, 96720. Contact info.

Learn more about Catherine Becker and her research.


About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

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