Refugee Resettlement: Social Capital, Civil Society, and the Integration Processes of Former Refugees
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis explores the process of identity renegotiation and the role social capital plays in civil society participation by the former refugee communities of Eritrean and Bhutanese living in Christchurch, New Zealand. This is undertaken through examination of three hypotheses pertaining to ethnic identity maintenance and national identity creation, community mobilisation and social capital, and the motivations behind such mobilisation. In comparing the processes of identity negotiation and social capital between the members of the Eritrean and Bhutanese communities, this study of 27 participants illustrates the importance of members’ ethnic community connection in the development of a national identity, and the dissimilar levels of social capital and subsequent participation in civil society by the two communities. This work analyses the role social capital within such migrant communities plays in members participation in their settlement society as well as in group’s ethnic identity maintenance. The theoretical framework of this work is influenced by the research of Berry (1997), Lucken (2010), Ager and Strang (2008) and Valtonen (1998; 2004). This study found there are much higher levels of social capital in the Bhutanese community compared to the Eritrean community. These disparate levels can be attributed to the differing demographics of the communities; the high levels of stress suffered by Eritrean members involved in the family reunification process; and the differences between the communities refugee experience prior to arrival in New Zealand. My findings also suggest that the process of national identification by migrants relies on strong connections between members’ and their ethnic community, not, as commonly assumed, participation in wider society. Importantly this work illustrates that social capital is necessary in the mobilisation of migrant communities. Grievances associated with settlement are not attended to on a community level unless there is a high degree of social capital within the community. This enables participation in civil society through the establishment of a representative community organisation, and members to cooperate with other sectors of wider society.