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Towards a framework of deep diversity: Identity and invisibility in the Indian diaspora in New Zealand

Using the Indian diaspora in New Zealand as a case study, this thesis examines how state categorisation practices and nation building narratives have constructed and racialised migrant minorities, such as Indians, in particular ways. It does so through a review of the historical settlement narrative and census records that have tended to erase early ethnic minority presence from what is seen as a predominantly bicultural encounter. Aotearoan colonial society has tended to render early Indian presence in New Zealand invisible. This pattern remains perceptible in the prolonged use of homogenising ethnic categories utilised throughout the history of the New Zealand census that obfuscate the extent of ethnic minority diversification with specific reference to the Indian community. The thesis critiques state constructions of ethnic identity through (1) the presentation of alternative historical narratives that more appropriately demonstrate the presence of non-Māori non-European minorities at first contact; (2) an examination of minority reporting in the New Zealand census during the period of early European settlement; and (3) an analysis of data from a survey of the Indian community in New Zealand. The survey data on self-reported experiences of discrimination underscore the importance of ethnic self-identification and the use of more heterogeneous categories for appropriate minority recognition. At a theoretical level, the thesis outlines a novel framework for diversity governance, known as deep diversity, which is informed by an interdisciplinary methodological and theoretical approach that draws on the disciplines of anthropology, demography, history, and policy studies. This framework rethinks current policy approaches that position minorities as beneficiaries of policies designed for their social uplift and integration into majority society, and instead places the onus of social integration on both minorities and majorities. The framework is applied to an analysis of qualitative data from historical sources that fundamentally question New Zealand’s existing bicultural settlement narrative; to quantitative data from both historical and contemporary census records; and to a self-administered predominantly web-based survey of 1,124 Indian respondents using a snowball sampling method. This thesis presents an alternative historical settlement narrative that positions Indians as participating, along with Europeans, in first contact encounters with Māori in Aotearoa. Past and present census analysis also reveals the extent of historic Indian invisibility, and demonstrates continued state use of enumeration techniques that obscure and homogenise the diversity that exists within the Indian population. The survey results focus on the themes of identity and discrimination, the analysis of which offers insights about the importance of ethnic self-identification, the continued presence of discrimination, and the use of more heterogeneous categories for appropriate minority recognition. Specific survey results show that respondents, while identifying as ‘Indian’ on the census, favour terms that cite hyphenated nationality or ethnicity (e.g. Kiwi-Indian, Indo-Fijian) or regional, religious, linguistic and country of birth identifiers, as significant forms of self-identification. Results on discrimination demonstrate that 48.4% of survey respondents reported being the target of a discrimination event in New Zealand (86.9% of whom are migrants, while 13.1% were born in New Zealand). When queried about the presence of discrimination, 90.7% of respondents believe that racism and discrimination currently exist within New Zealand society, while only 9.3% believe that it does not exist. Minority invisibility contributes to social discrimination, and helps perpetuate the shallow diversity management practices in use today. More attention to the importance of appropriate minority self-identification and accommodation, involving majorities in minority integration programmes, and institutional support for a shared national identity, could all help facilitate and promote vital social cohesion strategies in New Zealand. The deep diversity framework articulated in this thesis offers an alternative vision for diversity governance and social cohesion that is appropriate for western liberal democracies with highly pluralised societies such as New Zealand.
Type of thesis
Nachowitz, T. (2015). Towards a framework of deep diversity: Identity and invisibility in the Indian diaspora in New Zealand (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9442
University of Waikato
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