In God's Hands: The Marshall Islands—Missionaries, Nuclear Testing, and Climate Change

In the North Pacific, a scholar conducts field work amidst the ghosts of great empires.

Title slide of the storymap with a background photo of sunlight shining behind a cemetery of gravestones and palm trees

Carleigh Beriont lived in the Republic of the Marshall Islands from 2010–2013. When she began research for her dissertation in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, she found the country’s archives still under repair from devastating water damage sustained in 2011. Much of what survived the flooding was stored in a shipping container, which became her study space for several months between 2016 and 2019.

Her dissertation draws on archival sources and oral history to examine the relationships between the Marshallese, American and Marshallese Protestant missionaries, and the US military.

In this photo journey, derived from her research and time living in the Marshall Islands, she captures the many dimensions of empire, militarism, and Christianity that imprint the island nation and its people. Her images connect the resilience of the environment—persisting in the aftermath of nuclear testing and the realities of climate change—and the faith and steadfastness of the Marshallese people.


Carleigh Beriont is a Graduate Student Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. She is a PhD candidate in the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard University. Her research focuses on American religious history; religion and politics; US empire; Pacific/Oceania; mission studies; religion, ethnicity, and race; nuclear testing; and decolonization.