Where to Belong and Why? Sri Lankan immigrants’ perceptions of Australian, New Zealand and Sri Lankan citizenship
To explore Sri Lankan immigrants’ views, this study employs a qualitative methodology. I collected data through forty-nine semi-structured interviews with first-generation Sri Lankan immigrants in Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland and Wellington, and used thematic analysis to interpret my data. I found that my participants give different meanings to their Sri Lankan, Australian, and New Zealand citizenship. In terms of the adoptive country citizenship, participants’ instrumental and patriotic views were intertwined. My findings show that Sri Lankan immigrants’ loyalty and sense of belonging to Australian or New Zealand society has developed on top of their positive thoughts about achieving socio-economic or political migratory expectations. In contrast, participants viewed the patriotic spirit and the instrumentalist value of home country citizenship separately, and the strength of their feeling about loyalty and belonging was not affected by the material aspects of citizenship. Based on these findings, I highlight the need to understand immigrants’ perceptions of citizenship differently than those of native citizens. I argue that assumptions, such as only good immigrants can belong and be loyal to the host society in isolation to their materialistic interests of citizenship, are highly misleading and result in ineffective policy decisions.
The findings also show that home country factors that affect the way my participants see citizenship vary across ethnic lines. While the way Sinhalese participants perceive their Sri Lankan and Australian or New Zealand citizenship are more affected by socio-economic factors, Tamil participants’ views are mostly influenced by political factors, due to the ethnic suppression they faced in Sri Lanka. Thus, I conclude that migration scholarship should acknowledge heterogeneity within immigrant communities and migrants’ unique, individual, experiences, and subjective realities.