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Type: Thesis
Title: Great Expectations: African-Australian Marriage Migration in an Ethnography of Aspirational Happiness and Everyday Racism
Author: Hoogenraad, Henrike
Issue Date: 2018
School/Discipline: School of Social Sciences: Anthropology and Development Studies
Abstract: This thesis ethnographically examines journeys of marriage migration among couples consisting of an Australian woman and a migrant man from the continent of Africa. It narrates these marriage migration journeys as ‘happiness projects’ leading to a good life. For the interlocutors in this study, happiness is connected to dreams for a life-long partnership that begins with the visa application process. And while there are moments of joy along the way, happiness is often invoked as an aspired state rather than an achieved goal; as such, it provides a sense of orientation—a guiding light. Despite the best of intentions, however, the obstacles of government bureaucracy, institutional and everyday racism, and unrealistic expectations of romance often prevent the hoped-for happy endings. I argue that it is under the strain of these pressures that many of the relationships forged with high hopes of lasting love and happiness deteriorate, creating emotional, mental and physical duress. The personal experiences of such obstructions to happiness are the focal point of the thesis. In the process of looking at the external and interpersonal factors that disrupt and even sever relationships, this thesis upsets a dominant narrative that migrant men from various parts of Africa seek to be with Australian women—many of who may not necessarily conform to normative notions of beauty and femininity—for the sole purpose of obtaining a visa. This ‘scam artist’ narrative generalises migrant men and their sponsoring partners, and it also overlooks and obscures the very difficult process of crossing borders both physical and intimate. To ground the principle assertions, and to upset this scam artist narrative, the ethnographic data serving as the basis for this thesis consists of participant observation, informal conversations and unstructured interviews among 36 partners and ex-partners. The data was collected over 15 months in 2014 and 2015 in Adelaide and Melbourne, with follow-up conversations over the course of 2016. Conceptually, the thesis intertwines a ‘dark’ anthropology perspective with an anthropology of ‘happiness’ in seeing marriage migration as a happiness project that generates ambivalence, conflict, and suffering, but also hope and joy. This happiness scholarship—which narrates what happiness does, and how it serves as a motive for people to improve their everyday lives—is a reaction to, rather than a replacement of, a dark anthropology that predominantly focuses on human suffering and the lives of the ‘downtrodden’. And while on the surface the thesis may seem to focus on the ‘suffering others’, I also emphasise how select interlocutors do not necessarily experience their lived realities as suffering paths or continuous struggles. Rather, I focus on ‘what gets in the way’ of their aspired happy endings to illustrate interlocutors’ desires and aspirations. Since institutional and everyday racism is often what prevents the successful pairing of cross-border couples, the thesis also utilises a Critical Race Theory approach. Critical Race Theory adds value by outlining the kinds of subtle racism that often goes unnamed, but which can be harmful nonetheless.
Advisor: Drew, Georgina
Papadelos, Pam
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Social Sciences, 2018
Keywords: Marriage migration
Critical Race Theory (CRT)
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
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