Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Trans-Tasman Border Stories: Actor-Network Theory and Policy Narrative in Action

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posted on 2023-09-26, 23:54 authored by Nicklin, Germana

This thesis explores the relationship between narrative and action in the policy practice of border management in trans-Tasman regional economic integration. Using the European Union, the most developed form of regional integration, as a point of reference, it examines five stories of policy practice relating to the joint Prime Ministerial announcement on 2 March 2009 that committed Australia and New Zealand to ‘reduce remaining barriers at the borders to ensure that people and goods can move more easily between the two countries’ (Key & Rudd, 2009a).  Actor-network theory (ANT) is the theoretical frame, drawing particularly on the works of Bruno Latour, John Law and Vicky Singleton, Michel Callon, and Barbara Czarniawksa, enhanced with aspects of the narrative theory of Hannah Arendt and Paul Ricoeur. This frame aligns with and builds on the policy narrative work of Rod Rhodes and Maarten Hajer and is applied to both regional integration and policy practice.   New knowledge comes from identifying border management as a domain of policy practice, and extending Callon’s concept of marketization to border management, which is shown to be part of the global trading narrative that underpins regional integration. In trans-Tasman regional economic integration, narratives are revealed as a mix of economic, political and cultural matters of concern that are enacted with different types of separation and integration effects. The trans-Tasman relationship features as a macro-actor from which a mix of narrative effects emerges.  The combination of economic, political and cultural narratives revealed in trans-Tasman regional economic integration can be seen in the EU, but with different emphases and effects arising from the interaction between them. This finding suggests a potential anatomy of border management policy in regional integration.  Through tracing the actions of officials, this thesis reveals Trans-Tasman policy narratives to be performative, made up of the many little translations that occur in day-to-day policy practice, into which are woven the above broader connections. It also reveals that narrative is not only a way to tell the stories of what is being done, but that the narratives of matters of concern drive the action, and the action itself tells its own story. Narratives thus cannot be separated from action. These policy narratives are multiple and affect action in different ways, both positively and negatively, depending on the matters of concern, the relational power (who’s speaking on behalf of whom or what) and how they interact with one another.  A point of departure for this thesis is the use of ANT to explore policy narrative, and the potential for applying the concept of performativity to other approaches of policy narrative. The narrative aspect of ANT is underemphasised yet it is a powerful analytical tool that has the potential to add to the effectiveness of the practice of policy. Incorporating aspects of narrative theory together with ANT is shown to enhance the insights.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License


Degree Discipline

Public Policy

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Government


Eichbaum, Chris; Mein Smith, Philippa