Migrants or settlers? Katie Wright Higgins, Ambiguous Migrants: Contemporary British Migrants in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand, PhD Dissertation, University of Sussex, 2016


Abstract: A bicultural approach to the politics of settler-indigenous relations, rapidly increasing ethnocultural diversity and its status as an ex-British settler society, make Auckland a fascinating and complex context in which to examine contemporary British migrants. However, despite Britain remaining one of the largest source countries for migrants in Aotearoa New Zealand, and the country’s popularity as a destination among British emigrants, contemporary arrivals have attracted relatively little attention. This thesis draws on twelve-months of qualitative research, including in-depth interviews with forty-six participants, photo-elicitation with a smaller group, and participant observation, in order to develop a nuanced account of participants’ narratives, everyday experiences and personal geographies of Auckland. This thesis adopts a lens attentive to the relationship between the past and the present in order to explore British migrants’ imaginaries of sameness and difference, national belonging, place and ‘the good life’ in Aotearoa New Zealand. First, through attention to the ‘colonial continuities’ of participants’ popular geographical and temporal imaginaries of Aotearoa New Zealand, and the lifestyles they associate with it, this thesis is part of growing attention to historical precedents of ‘the good life’ in international lifestyle migration literature. Secondly, by examining participants’ relations with Māori, other ethnicised groups, bi- and multiculturalism, I expand on whether these migrants’ invest, or not, in ‘the settler imaginary’ (Bell 2014). In doing so, I bring crucial nuance to understandings of ethnic and cultural difference, and settler-indigenous relations, in globalising white settler spaces. As neither fully ‘them’ nor ‘us’ (Wellings 2011), British migrants occupy an ambiguous position in ex-British settler societies. Finally, I examine participants’ notions of shared ancestry and of cultural familiarity with Pākehā, and, in doing so, problematise the notion of Britishness as a natural legacy or passive inheritance in this context.

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