AbstractsPolitical Science

Mobilities of self and place : politics of well-being in an age of migration

by Mahni Dugan

Institution: University of Tasmania
Year: 2015
Keywords: self; place; identity; migration; refugees; asylum seekers; wellbeing
Record ID: 1069305
Full text PDF: http://eprints.utas.edu.au/22475/2/Whole-Dugan-thesis.pdf


This thesis investigates the complex relationality of sense of place and sense of self to explore how, in circumstances of contemporary migration, wellbeing may be engendered and provide opportunity for both people and place to flourish. Often, environmental problems are attributed to alienation of people from places, and social problems to people’s dissociation and alienation from themselves. Some studies attribute both conditions to high levels of migration and other mobilities in the modern world, and address such problems of people and place as if the two were separate. The case will be made that people and place are inextricably related, and that taking their relationship into account can increase the efficacy of responses to challenges of contemporary migration. Here, people and place are considered together, and an investigation is made into the veracity of two claims: that belief in a flawed human nature is a deeper, underlying cause of those alienations; and that the relationality of sense of self and sense of place is key to wellbeing. The work challenges ideas that comfort and security can only be achieved by staying in one place, and seeks to demonstrate how it is possible to be both grounded in place and mobile. Such labours draw on insights from several disciplines, and on select theories to investigate politics of mobility and migration, identity and difference, ethics, rights, and agency. Several original qualitative case studies are presented, analysed, and synthesised; these drawing on extended work with a disparate group of people with histories of regular and irregular migration. Critical engagement with their narratives explores beneath the surface of their utterances to find how, when faced with migration and relocation, some people appear to generate better coping strategies that seem optimal for them, and seem to express a sense of wellbeing more pronounced than others who report considerable distress and a sense of displacement. Part one critically outlines conceptual frameworks related to mobility, place, and self; and investigates dynamics of the relationship of the self to itself that affect sense of self and sense of place. Part two explores contemporary migration and introduces case study participants in categories of regular and irregular migration, and highly mobile lifestyles. Part three investigates challenges of resettlement, multiple senses of place, multiculturalism, racism, identity, and belonging. Discussion in part four articulates distinctions between identity and self, and considers how that understanding affects sense of self and sense of place. People’s alienation from or relational awareness of self and place is directly linked to the weakness or strength of their senses of self and place, and insights are given into how those senses might be strengthened. The final chapter summarises the research, documents its possible applications, and comments on its contribution to discourse on political and cultural geographies of migration, and…