Belonging in the Diaspora

What's this study about?

Our sense of belonging is shaped primarily from our place of birth (location), by the people who raise us (ancestry) within their traditions and beliefs (value); these are perhaps three of the most basic characteristics for ‘cultural identity’. Drawing on thoughts from Derrida to Foucault we can position the paradox of ‘identity’ on a spectrum that shifts between traditional schools of thought that identity is ‘reductive’ (Ruthrof, 1988), or really that which can ‘reconceptuliased’ (Racevskis, 1987).


This research project into cultural identity does not aim to make an exact theoretical abstraction of this dilemma but rather to channel Hall’s (1996) sense of revival locating ‘identity’ as “recognition of some common origin or shared characteristics with another person or group, or with an ideal, and with the natural closure of solidarity and allegiance established on this foundation” (Hall, 1996: p.2). Given that humanity is now constantly in a state of geographical migration, it is noted that identities tend to change as we adapt and adopt our initial belief systems and values to accommodate for more characteristics that make our present-day evolved sense of ‘self’ (Heisler, 2001).


This research project would like to examine three different cultural groups (Chinese-Australian, Ukrainian-New Zealand & Caribbean-British) to understand what aspects of cultural identity remains constant to people who have migrated from the homeland to better understand why some values persist over others.


Case Studies & Researchers:

Trinidad & Tobago | United Kingdom - Dr Melissa Jogie

The Caribbean British study aims to examine how spatiotemporal elements have impacted on cultural identity, by seeking to investigate how over time and location what elements of the original identity people choose to keep closest to their sense of belonging, and that which will be passed onto their future generations as a sense of their ‘traditional homeland’. Drawing on the current works of globalisation and cultural changes for the Caribbean (Premdas, 2011), this arm of the project seeks to do a closer investigation of the adaptations that have been made to Caribbean migrants who have only ever relocated in London.


China | Australia - Dr Daozhi Xu


The Chinese Australian study aims to examine the cultural identity of Chinese immigrants to Australia and their belonging—in cultural, social and emotional senses—to the land in which they currently reside. It seeks to reveal the ways in which Chinese Australians through the entanglements arising from the landscapes of work and living inscribe themselves into the land, ‘physically, sensually, emotionally and cognitively and socially’ (Dominy, 2003). Particularly, it will investigate how Chinese immigrants’ sense of belonging is posited within a wider debate between mainstream (mainly European) settlers’ claim of sovereignty and Indigenous people’s traditional connection to country. 


Ukraine | New Zealand - Dr Corinne Seals

The Ukrainian New Zealand study aims to investigate how Ukrainians living in the New Zealand diaspora (re)conceptualise what “home” means to them and how this shifting sense of home influences and is influenced by their sense of belonging in New Zealand. This will extend work presented by Seals (2019), this time working with migrants of all ages who moved from Ukraine to New Zealand as adults, therein arguably utilising a greater sense of agency when seeking to negotiate belonging in a country in which they are no longer the original historical inhabitants.



Funded by the British Academy:

This project is one of twelve proposals to receive seed funding from the British Academy following from the UK-AUS Knowledge Frontiers Forum (2019), which was held in collaboration with the Australian Academy of Humanities (50th Anniversary) in Brisbane (Australia). The British Academy approved a budget of £4,000 for this interdisciplinary collaborative project to be conducted across the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. 


Participating in this Study?

If you are interested in participating in this research or receiving information about publications, and dissemination projects please get in touch.