Like a Superman on Mars: transnational movement, belonging, and limbo in biographic narrative interviews with Australian Hazaras

MacKenzie, L 2018, Like a Superman on Mars: transnational movement, belonging, and limbo in biographic narrative interviews with Australian Hazaras, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Media and Communication, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Like a Superman on Mars: transnational movement, belonging, and limbo in biographic narrative interviews with Australian Hazaras
Author(s) MacKenzie, L
Year 2018
Abstract In this thesis, I explored in depth the self-construction of ten Australian Hazaras, five women and five men, based on rich narrative interviews that provided portraits of resilient and adaptive selves. This aimed to redress the relative paucity of representations of refugee narratives that privilege refugee voices, and to challenge prevalent constructions of refugee and migrant theorising.

To gather stories for the project, I employed a biographic narrative interviewing technique: a style of interviewing that allows the recreation of the interviewee's gestalt, producing narratives that contain detailed memories and a stronger sense of the life story. This style of interviewing minimises intrusion, interruption, expectation, and interviewer assumption. It allowed me to access stories of travail in Afghanistan, boat journeys, internment in Australia's indefinite detention system, encounters with re-traumatising everyday racism, and policy restrictions placed on working, learning English, or being reunited with family. The experience of coming to Australia is not just an experience of emergent identity, but also includes the shattering encounter with Immigration policy that indefinitely detains people, and causes families to be heartbreakingly separated.

Themes emerged around how the self is narrated to include history and culture, movement as an aspect of narrative, and shifts in the experience of self in the new culture. This last was gendered: although all respondents linked the new place with the experience of safety, it was specifically the women respondents who described experiencing a new sense of self in their new environment. Experiences were generally recounted with a sense of eudaimonic (meaning-oriented) well-being, reflecting an overall life-satisfaction. All participants affirmed that Australia was now their home. This did not indicate a giving up of older cultural ties; instead, it suggests the possibility of new subjectivities in transnational conceptions of the world.

The complexities of the stories in this research indicate the appropriateness of analyses drawn from transnational rather than traditional migration frameworks in understanding these kinds of movement and transition stories. Research participants clearly drew on aspects from both their countries of origin and their new homes to construct a sense of self. This finding allowed me to question assumptions around the trope of the lone helpless refugee that appear with some prevalence in representations of migrants and refugees in both academia and popular culture. Instead, I uncovered stories of resilient and adaptable people, whose links to their communities and families formed the cornerstones of their identities. The research thus contributes to transnational theorising about identity in the shifting global world stage through the application of a richly qualitative method that allowed complex stories of identity to emerge, not easily reducible to simple tropes or categories.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Media and Communication
Subjects Sociological Methodology and Research Methods
Migrant Cultural Studies
Postcolonial Studies
Keyword(s) Hazara
Narrative interviewing
Refugee
Australian immigration policy
Transnational
Self-construction
Life-story
Phenomenology
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Created: Tue, 04 Dec 2018, 07:59:27 EST by Keely Chapman
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