Contrasting definitions of self: migrants and stayers

Date of this Version

January 2006

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Details

Interim status: Citation only.

Green, A & Power, M. (2006) Contrasting definitions of self: Migrants and stayers. Annual Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association, Adelaide.

To obtain a copy of this conference paper please contact the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association.
Copyright ©ANZCA & University of Adelaide, 2006.


This paper examines interview and survey data from two groups: New Zealand migrants to Australia, and New Zealand residents who have chosen to stay in or return to New Zealand. Data shows that these two groups construct a positive but different sense of self. Each group sees themselves positively and constructs the other group in more negative terms. Migrants see themselves primarily as risk takers and adventurers while seeing those who have stayed behind as complacent, lacking in drive and unwilling to take risks. In contrast, stayers construct a view of themselves as more stable, satisfied and contented and migrants as restless, unable to settle and dissatisfied. Migrants explain their move to Australia in terms of its positive empowering benefits and the increased opportunities migration gives them and their families. They construct a view of Australians as refreshing, direct and more tolerant than New Zealanders. In contrast, New Zealanders happy to stay describe positive features of their country such as it being clean, green and untainted by American influences. Those who stay behind focus on the negative qualities of Australians seeing them as loud, brash and overly influenced by the United States. The data is compared with constructs of self exhibited in the larger migration literature and informed by theoretical analysis using constructs from cognitive dissonance and social identity theories.

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