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Feelings of home and belonging amongst Bhutanese women and girls with refugee backgrounds who live in New Zealand

This thesis focuses on the everyday home geographies of Bhutanese women and girls with refugee backgrounds in Aotearoa New Zealand. It examines feelings of being at home and belonging for 37 resettled Bhutanese women and girls, and eight men, aged between 12 and 85 years, all living under the third-country resettlement programme in Auckland, Christchurch, Nelson and Palmerston North. Three key informants, who assist with resettlement, are also included in this research. It is argued that everyday experiences of home and belonging are embodied, emotional, and contradictory for Bhutanese women and girls. Feminist scholarship on gendered feelings of belonging and home informs the framework of the research. Qualitative performative methods are used, comprising 40 semi-structured in-depth interviews; five photo-elicitations; and seven cooking sessions with Bhutanese women. A focus group of five girls aged from 12 to 16 years was also involved in the study. In addition, I adopted a new approach called ‘accidental ethnography’, which comprised stayovers, participant sensing, and cooking sessions in the field. The data gathered was analysed using thematic and discourse analytical approaches. My findings are organised into three central themes that relate to belonging and home: bodies; households; and communities. First, I pay attention to the corporeal practices of resettled Bhutanese women and girls in everyday life. Clothing, jewellery, norms, values, language and traditions can enable belonging and feeling at home but they can also generate feelings of discomfort, segregation and being outsiders when two extreme cultures confront each other. Second, I focus on day-to-day activities within households. Creating a familiar environment within households, including being with family, having backyard gardens, consuming culturally appropriate food, maintaining one’s religion and having a sturdy house with meaningful material objects, enable resettled Bhutanese to accept their new country as home. Third, my study shows that a sense of community can enable or hinder participants’ feelings of belonging in New Zealand. Living in smaller cities, being able to exercise and observe Bhutanese traditions, living longer in New Zealand, developing satisfaction with the neighbourhood and feeling safe are all factors that play an important role in forming feelings of community for resettled Bhutanese women and girls. Feelings of belonging and a sense of being at home are about maintaining, reinforcing and negotiating cultural and gendered identities in New Zealand. This study responds to the lack of critical attention paid to the relationship between home and belonging for resettled Bhutanese women and girls. Considering everyday practices encourages a more critical understanding of belonging and home for women and girls with refugee backgrounds.
Type of thesis
Basnet, S. (2018). Feelings of home and belonging amongst Bhutanese women and girls with refugee backgrounds who live in New Zealand (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12115
The University of Waikato
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