Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet)

Bringing together researchers, practitioners and policy makers working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland

The Challenges of Visible Migrant Settlement in Regional Australia

by David Radford

 

In November last year, David Radford and Louis Everuss from the Hawke-EU Centre for Mobilities, Migrations, and Cultural Transformations, Hawke Research Institute, University of South Australia visited GRAMNet. In this post, David, a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre, contributes a write up of a seminar paper he delivered, as well as some reflections on his time with GRAMNet.

 

The nature of Australia’s growing multicultural society requires individuals and communities to meaningful engage and negotiate with one another’s ‘differences and sameness”. Pardy and Lee have argued that increasing diverse communities living in the same physical location ‘is not something to be accepted, rejected or debated’, rather, ‘…it is a fact of life’ (Pardy and Lee, 2011 p. 300), influenced in no small part by globalisation and increased mobilities. Recent work into the nature of Australia’s multicultural society has investigated how diverse local and immigrant communities negotiate their interpersonal relations in everyday life experiences. Here I draw on the concept of ‘everyday multiculturalism’ (Wise and Velayutham, 2009) and apply it to regional Australian communities which are facing a growing influx of ‘visible migrants’ (‘visible’ because of skin colour, dress or religious practice or language) – mostly from Asia, the Middle East and Africa. I argue that keys to promoting inclusion, cohesion, resilience in regional communities necessarily includes identifying and strengthening capacities for intercultural understanding by both long-term regional residents and new migrants.

‘Everyday multiculturalism’ highlights the ways in which individuals and groups learn to live with one another in the midst of diversity. I suggest that ‘everyday otherness’ is reflective of the way people come to terms with and negotiate the conscious and unconscious differences that members of different communities experience when interacting with one another. The challenges associated with the ‘everyday otherness’ can be difficult to bridge especially when the number of new migrants is high and the speed with which changes take place is rapid. Immediate reactions to change can be quite negative. There are challenges to the way ‘otherness’ and difference can be bridged in diverse communities. Some challenges revolve around fears that are felt or expressed about the ‘other’ in the community. In many cases those fears are based on hearsay or unsubstantiated assumptions about the ‘other’ in the community, and if not verbalised may not be dealt with and grow.

‘Everyday otherness’ takes place in everyday encounters between members of diverse communities. It is reflective of a lack of understanding and/or ignorance about one another. But is also reflects a lack of personal relationship and engagement with ‘the other’. One of the keys to overcoming ‘everyday otherness’ is a willingness to engage in everyday relationship building across differences. Amanda Wise (2009) refers to particular people, whom she calls, ‘transversal enablers’, who are able to reach out to, engage with, and overcome potential differences within, and between, communities. Here I argue that ‘transversal enablers’ can be identified in two ways – ‘structural transversal enablers’ and ‘everyday transversal enablers’. ‘Structural transversal enablers’ are those people who have some form of paid or voluntary position in the community which allows them to actively support and positively influence intercultural dynamics between long-term residents and new migrant communities. On the other hand ‘everyday transversal enablers’ represents any individual in the community who, in everyday life situations, positively influence intercultural dynamics between long-term residents and new migrant communities. These ‘enablers’ can be represented by members from both long-term residents and the new migrant community.

As in any community building activity, negotiating and engaging with one another’s differentness involves work. It can be far from straight-forward, uncomfortable, and even messy, but without this intercultural labour diverse groups living in the same geographical space will not be able to find ways to effectively build strong cohesive societies, places in which all communities can grow together. Building intercultural capacities within regional communities are important if diverse communities are going to not simply get along, or put up with one another, but to thrive together. The growing multicultural nature of these communities requires that we find ways to accommodate, negotiate and transform these changes. Neither the process nor the reasons behind why individuals struggle at bridging difference are simple. While issues of structural and popular racism are relevant factors much has also, I argue, to do with ‘everyday otherness’ and the ‘strangeness of otherness’. How do I greet? What should I say and not say? What is appropriate and not appropriate? The ‘strangeness of otherness’ also has to do with the tendency to interpret actions and attitudes as being offensive when this may be far from the truth.

A person’s negative reaction to other communities is not necessarily another example of racism, though this maybe a factor. Negative reactions are also founded in fear and not knowing, of not having any personal connections with the ‘other’. These fears require negotiation if otherness is to be bridged. The ability or capacity to bridge otherness involves a level of labour requiring effort and is typified by openness, resilience, receptivity and mutuality, including the ability to overcome offence. It also involves the ability to see the other in their ‘common humanity’ not simply be defined by what is seen as others’ difference such as their ethnicity, dress, or their religion, or even their apparent rudeness or lack of civility. If there is such a thing as ‘everyday otherness’, as I have suggested, then there is also such a thing as ‘everyday sameness’, the ways in which long-term residents and new migrants are alike, be it in their hopes and dreams, fears and failings. Recognising one another’s’ sameness is as important as bridging one another’s difference or otherness.

Visible migrants becoming long-term residents is an increasing reality for rural communities offering both potential for risk (conflict) as well as opportunity for growth. I have suggested here that structural and everyday transversal enablers, acting as bridge builders across and between their various communities, are important in promoting positive interculturality in regional communities and in responding to everyday otherness. I also argue that where there is commitment from long-term residents and new migrants to ‘labour’, to make the effort to negotiate, to reciprocate, to understand and to move towards one another even through misunderstanding and mistrust, there is a real opportunity that the inevitably changes will enrich and expand individual and community identities.

 

PARDY, M. & LEE, J. C. 2011. Using buzzwords of belonging: everyday multiculturalism and social capital in Australia. Journal of Australian Studies, 35, 297-316.
WISE, A. 2009. Everyday multiculturalism: transversal crossings and working class cosmopolitans. In: WISE, A. & VELAYUTHAM, S. (eds.) Everyday Multiculturalism.
WISE, A. & VELAYUTHAM, S. (eds.) 2009. Everyday Multiculturalism, Basingstoke:: Palgrave Macmillan.
 
 
 

David reflects on his time with GRAMNet

University of Glasgow West Quadrangle by Michael D Beckwith

University of Glasgow West Quadrangle by Michael D Beckwith licensed under CC BY 2.0


 

I recently had the privilege of visiting GRAMNet in Glasgow together with Louis Everuss, a PhD candidate. Louis and I were visiting GRAMNet supported by the Hawke-EU Centre for Mobilities, Migrations and Cultural Transformations at the Hawke Research Institute (HRI), University of South Australia (UniSA). Louis will share about his own experiences at GRAMNet.

As a researcher coordinator at the Hawke-EU Centre focusing on superdiversity and human rights I was keen to meet up with GRAMNet and to engage with researchers and members of the network around issues of migration and refugee in Scotland and the UK. We were also looking at ways that the Hawke-EU Centre/UniSA can continue to build upon and extend earlier established relationships including previous visits to GRAMNet from UniSA and Prof Alison Phipps’ visit to UniSA in Adelaide. We were not disappointed. Louis AND I met with a wide range of established researchers, PhD students investigating migration/refugee issues, and community practioners. Apart from the profitable discussions regarding future engagements between the Hawke-EU Centre and GRAMNet I have come away with some reflections.

I was especially impressed with the strong academic inter-disciplinary approaches to key social questions around migration/refugees. There was both talk and active collaboration reflected in several research projects from a wide spectrum of academic disciplines. These projects were deeply connected to non-academic community partners who were active in migration/refugee in ways that mutually supported one another’s work. GRAMNet was an excellent example of how academic research informs and engages with community and how community informs and engages with academic research. Both have clearly benefited from the relationships and common objectives that brings all those associated with GRAMNet together. GRAMNet also has a strong emphasis on involving and drawing upon the creative arts in the research process and in community engagement around migration and refugees. The creative arts is clearly viewed as an essential component in the process and in outputs that come out of the research/community nexus.

While I do understand that the research/community engagement is not without its difficulties one cannot help but recognise the important research outcomes and community impact associated with GRAMNet in the wider community. Much food for reflection in our Australian context.

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This entry was posted on February 7, 2016 by in Academic seminar and tagged , , , , , , .
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