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

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Dugan, Mahni (2015) Mobilities of self and place : politics of well-being in an age of migration. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

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 mobilities of self and place.
The work, in total, challenges several people/place and human/nature dichotomies,
and demonstrates the value of a research perspective that holds self and place as
inseparable. The study’s findings also illuminate certain ways in which people might
develop or deepen agency and optimise their sense of wellbeing in diverse
circumstances of migration and resettlement. Fostering such comfort and security for
people and place to flourish are political matters that gain urgency at a time when the
scale of migration and displacement of peoples is unprecedented, and predicted to
escalate. Significantly, the results of the research may contribute knowledge and
understanding to inform policy and practice that respond to the challenges of
migration and other mobilities.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: self, place, identity, migration, refugees, asylum seekers, wellbeing
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2015 the Author

Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2015 06:48
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:52
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