Can the Racialised Other ‘Belong'? Rethinking Race, Racism and Belonging in Australia – Perceptions of Skilled Black African Migrants

Monday, July 14, 2014: 10:41 AM
Room: F201
Oral Presentation
Virginia MAPEDZAHAMA , University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2350, Australia
Kwansah-Aidoo KWAMENA , Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, VIC 3122, Australia
This paper centres the perspectives of a group of black skilled African migrants to interrogate the notion of ‘belonging’ within the Australian context. Specifically, the paper explores how participants’ constructions of belonging are grounded in narratives (and experiences) of racism, racialisation and racial discrimination. There is a significant body of work that explores the migrant’s experiences of mobility and constructions of belonging. However, to date, not much has been done to explicitly link these with experiences of racism and racial discrimination. Drawing on data from a qualitative study on identity and belonging among skilled ‘black’ African migrants, we argue in this paper that experiences of racism and racial discrimination entwined with ascriptions of ‘otherness’ evoke feelings of the perpetual stranger or outsider who does not belong. We therefore interpret the participants’ perceptions of belonging as exposing an/other ‘paradox of skilled migration’: where feelings of being ‘needed’ (‘invited’ into Australia to fulfil an identified ‘need’ in the labour market) co-exist with experiences of discrimination to construct an ‘other’ who simultaneously belongs and does not belong. In the end, while the discussions in this paper are mainly concerned with belonging as subjective, personal and emotional attachment to particular groups and constructs of ‘home’, they also expose the power relations, contestations and complexities inherent in the notion of ‘belonging’ particularly when one has to contend with racism and racial discrimination persistently and consistently.