Dissonant Belonging: Nation, Race and Immigration through a Queer Post-Imperial Lens

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:05
Location: Hörsaal 31 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Hannah JONES, University of Warwick, United Kingdom
This paper develops possibilities for queering understandings of racialization, nation and migration by thinking through the linked histories and presents of Britain and Australia. A focus of everyday bordering in both of these countries is ‘illegal immigrants’, both in public performance (UK government signs telling irregular immigrants to ‘Go Home’; Australian government publicity telling potential entrants ‘No Way: You will not make Australia your home’) and in treatment of those who are caught (Australia: confining asylum seekers who attempt entry by boat to off-shore detention centres and refusing the possibility of permanent refugee status; Britain: detaining irregular migrants for indefinite periods and forcibly deporting adults and children). Less often noted, British migrants in Australia are among the largest group of visa overstayers (hence ‘illegal immigrants’) – and it is likely Australians are among the largest group of UK overstayers, although data on this does not yet exist. However, they are much less problematized in everyday bordering practices than irregular migrants from elsewhere. In these exclusions from the potential for national belonging, an imagined familial, imperial logic persists.

Though both are multi-ethnic nations, this paper starts from the premise that these privileged statuses (as unproblematic migrants) stems from an understanding of a shared (symbolic) whiteness rooted in the belief in a transnational kinship (a legacy of settler colonialism). Though notions of biological races are long-discredited, notions of ‘family’ persist in talk of migration, settlement and belonging (‘the Motherland’; ‘our Australian cousins’), alongside claims to live in a ‘post-racial’ era. This paper draws on feminist, queer, post-colonial and whiteness theory to examine the persistence of biological symbolism, questioning the ontology of family as a safe space of belonging. ‘Queering’ the imagined family of nation allows a theoretical framework in which to understand the dissonance of different forms of racialised national belonging.