"Once you move, it's a different story" : the meaning of home for 1.5 generation Afghan women of refuge background living in Christchurch, New Zealand..
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
While some scholarship on refugee youth has focussed on leaving a place that is typically considered ‘home,’ there has been little attention to what ‘home’ means to them and how this is negotiated in the country of (re)settlement. This is particularly the case for girls and women. New Zealand research on refugee settlement has largely focussed on the economic integration of refugees. Although this research is essential, it runs the risk of overlooking the socio-cultural aspects of the resettlement experiences and renders partial our understanding of how particular generations and ethnic groups develop a sense of belonging to their adopted homeland. In order to address these research gaps, this thesis explores the experiences of 12 Afghan women, aged 19-29 years, of refugee background who relocated to Christchurch, New Zealand, during their childhood and early teenage years.
This study employed semi-structured, one-to-one, in-depth interviews and photo-elicitation to encourage talk about participants’ experiences of leaving Afghanistan, often living in countries of protracted displacement (Iran and/or Pakistan) and making- and being-at-home in New Zealand. In this thesis, I explore the ways in which they frame Afghanistan, and the ways in which their experiences in Iran and Pakistan disrupt the dichotomisation of belonging in terms of ‘here’ (ancestral land) and ‘there’ (country of residence). Furthermore, I use affect theorising to analyse the participants’ expressions of resettlement and home in New Zealand. Feeling at home is as much about negotiating cultural and gendered identities in Western secular societies as it is about belonging to a particular community. Through their experiences of ‘living in two worlds’, the participants are able to strategically challenge cultural expectations without undermining their reputations as Muslims and as Afghan women. The participants discussed their emotional responses to double-displacement: one as a result of war and the other as a result of 2011 Canterbury earthquakes. Therefore, I suggest that for young Afghan women, Afghanistan was among several markers of home in a long embodied journey of (re)settlement.