The Moral Politics of Emigration: Ambitious state strategies and the anxiety of diasporic return

Authors: Francis L Collins*, University of Auckland
Topics: Migration, Social Theory, Australia and New Zealand
Keywords: Migration, Theory, Subjectivity, Diaspora
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Evergreen, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The figure of the migrant is constituted through a range of forces, from economistic readings of the drivers of mobility, through state renderings of the value of migrants, through to cultures of mobility that establish the appropriateness of different forms of migration. This paper explores the contested framing of such figures through a focus on the moral politics of emigration in New Zealand. I focus in particular on the ways in which emigrant state strategies for the promotion of diaspora engagement run up against extant anxiety about the impact of migration on individual subjects as expressed in two films about diasporic return: Jinx Sister and In My Father’s Den. Both films are shaped around the experiences of individuals returning from long periods spent abroad, their encounters with local populations and the cultural discrepancies that surface in return. In contrast to state accounts of diaspora that prioritise emigrants as innovative and successful, and as a resource for national development, these films reveal anxiety as a resonant affect of diasporic return that takes shape around bodily comportments, space and distance and the gendering of returnees. Rather than the embrace of an economically successful diaspora and its embodied differences, the films reveal either re-assimilation or re-departure of emigrants as key to securing national socio-cultural coherence. Through this discussion the paper demonstrates how popular imaginations are central to the ways in which figures of migration are constituted and encountered and the ways in which these can challenge even the most ambitious of state strategies.

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