Accepted paper:

Making a difference? Analysing Ni-Vanuatu participation in New Zealand's seasonal migration programme


Rachel E. Smith (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

Integrating ethnographic insights into Ni-Vanuatu participation in New Zealand’s seasonal work scheme, I will argue an analytical approach that comprises complex interconnections and differences can contribute to anthropological theory and political philosophical debates on migration and justice.

Paper long abstract:

Melanesian ideas and practices have often been typified in anthropological analysis as wholly different from those in the West, turning on almost antithetical exchange practices and notions of power. Even the concept of the Melanesian person has been characterized in radical contrast with Western individualism presupposed in post-Enlightenment political ideas such as liberal democracy, human rights, nationhood and citizenship, and the free market. These ideals have informed migration policies and development paradigms, and the political philosophical debates on whether they are just or unjust. Drawing on my ethnographic research with a ni-Vanuatu community participating in in New Zealand's seasonal migration scheme, I will argue that understanding such processes demands an analytical framework that admits of the complex interconnections between global capital, migration and remittance flows, as well as social relations and transactions within and between local communities. Furthermore, such an approach must recognise the differences and inequalities that result from, sustain, and may be used to justify international political policies and economic processes, at inter-governmental, organisational, and interpersonal levels. How are arguments based on nationality and economic inequality used to legitimise political exclusions and employment restrictions? By what (or whose) standards can we adjudge fair exchange or distributive justice between nation states, and between employers and employees? And what of the resulting economic differentiation and inequalities emerging within and between communities? I will discuss how ethnographic insights into ni-Vanuatu perspectives and experiences of seasonal work can contribute to anthropological theoretical frameworks and political philosophical debates on migration and justice.

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Difference in an interconnected world