The theory of navigating cultural spaces
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Indian immigrant women are a growing minority group within the multicultural spaces of New Zealand society. Despite Indian immigrants being the second largest, and one of the oldest, Asian immigrant groups to this country, their experiences of settling in a new and unfamiliar environment have been largely overlooked. This grounded theory study using dimensional analysis was aimed at answering the question: ‘How do Indian immigrant women engage in occupations when settling in a new environment?’ In-depth interviews and observations of participants performing daily occupations were conducted with 25 Indian immigrant women living in one of three cities/towns located in the North Island of New Zealand. Theoretical sampling with constant comparative analysis was used to guide both ongoing data collection and data analysis. Categories were examined for their relationships and dimensions to arrive at a substantive grounded theory which has been named ‘Navigating Cultural Spaces’. Performing occupations that reflected either the Indian or New Zealand cultures, or a combination of the two, were core elements in how Indian immigrant women settled in New Zealand. These ways of doing everyday tasks have been conceptualised as Working with Indian Ways, Working with New Zealand Ways and Working with the Best of Both Worlds. Working from each of these perspectives, the women sought to Create a Place in which they could ‘be Indian’ in a ‘New Zealand’ context. In order to achieve the purpose of Creating a Place, Indian immigrant women constantly shifted between the three ways of working; thus, performing occupations that allowed them to reveal as much of their Indian culture as they felt comfortable with at any given time and situation. Their actions were influenced by the people, objects and social spaces that constituted the environment in which they engaged in occupations. The significance of this study is that it reveals how the everyday occupations of Indian immigrant women are constantly modified through their interaction and interpretations of the environment, thus allowing them to move between and within the multicultural spaces of New Zealand society. This gives rise to Navigating Cultural Spaces which frames settlement as an ongoing and dynamic process and challenges the applicability of current models of acculturation in a New Zealand context. It is recommended that future research examines the migration process from an occupational perspective in order to assist with the development of migration policy and support services that best facilitate Indian immigrant women Creating a Place in New Zealand.