In What Ways Do Kiwi Identity and Kiwiana Hold Relevance for Non-pākehā Migrant Communities?
Neill, Lindsay John
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Identity is a contested domain within academic study. Within vernacular ways of being, identities are often taken for granted. The combination of academic contestation and taken-for-granted-ness conflates identities as sites of personal, political, material and economic struggle. This is particularly the case in New World countries such as Aotearoa New Zealand. New Zealand is often referred to as a country of migrants. New Zealand’s habitation can be traced back to early Māori landing and settlements that are dated around 900AD. European settlement heralded a new age of identity in a nation that has come to be known as Aotearoa New Zealand: Pākehā, as settler peoples, and Māori, as first peoples or tangata whenua. While these identities have dominated New Zealand’s socio-culture since that time, the country’s inhabitants have come to be known by many other identifiers. This research explores one of these identities: the ‘Kiwi’ identity. Specifically, my research thesis explores how three migrant groups (Latin American, or Latinx, Pacific Island people or Pasifika, and Chinese) have come to understand Kiwi identity and its materiality, kiwiana. That understanding has been revealed by my use and adaptation of qualitative description and PhotoVoice as methodologies, and theoretical approaches including Deleuze and Guattari’s (1984) rhizome, social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979) and identity theory (Stryker, 1980). This amalgam of theory and practice was, importantly, oriented by my decision to make ample room for the voices of my participant groups. Since the immigration law changes in 1986, Aotearoa New Zealand has opened up its previous policies of discrimination and replaced them with an equitable, user-friendly immigration policy model. Consequently, the number of migrants to the country has rapidly increased. That increase has influenced identity change. Thus, my research is timely in its exploration of Kiwi identity from the perspective of new migrant communities. From focus group meetings or individual interviews with 18 participants (6 per migrant group), I distilled findings and a discussion that challenges existing literature about what it means to be Kiwi in 2018 and possibly beyond. Most interestingly, my participants realised the place and importance of Māori identity, culture and worldview in their construction of Kiwi identity. Within that realisation, participants introduced new ways of thinking about and coming to know contemporary ways of being Kiwi. These experiences were metered against their own realisations of identity change as participants moved from being an aspirant migrant, toward a migrant ‘in process’ and finally to becoming a resident. This research also reveals that permeating what my participants told me, and showed me through PhotoVoice, was the pernicious influence of media. I suggest that many of my participants came to Aotearoa New Zealand mentally ‘pre-loaded’ with imagery of the country and its culture, particularly of Māori culture. In that way, my research opens up Kiwi identity and its formation for further investigation, particularly in light of the subtly invasive influences of media. In that regard my research now represents a starting point for further exploration, not an end-point.