Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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'I Can Tell You This Is a Fine Country': Identity Construction in the British-New Zealand Imperial Diaspora

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posted on 2021-11-12, 23:37 authored by Sautter, Lilja Mareike

This thesis uses diaspora theory to analyse late-nineteenth-century texts written by women in New Zealand. The texts include a number of novels as well as non-fictional journals and memoirs. Robin Cohen's definition of diaspora provides a framework for understanding the British settler community in New Zealand as an imperial diaspora. My approach modifies Cohen's framework by also employing constructivist theories of diaspora, in particular by Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy and James Clifford. These theorists see identity as continuously produced within representation and diaspora as furthering cultural crossover and hybrid identities. This view of the British diaspora reveals fissures within the teleological ideology of the nation-state, which underlies imperialism. Rather than focusing on a binary of imperial centre and colonial periphery, I understand the diasporic community in New Zealand as part of an international network in which mobility and a shared print culture provided manifold connections.  The main research question asks how the texts participate in the construction of identity in the diasporic community in New Zealand and how they situate themselves within a wider context of diasporic print culture. It focuses both on the identity of women within the community and on the significance of notions of women‟s role, femininity and women's writing for the identity production of the community as a whole. The three sections, "Journey", "Settling" and "Community", trace the diaspora's narrative production of its collective identity through time and space. They consider the diaspora‟s textual imagining of its journey to New Zealand, its project of settling there, and its building of a distinct community. It emerges that the texts usually attempt to reconcile a number of contradictions and conflicting discourses, at the basis of which lies a fundamental tension between the diaspora's dispersal from the homeland and its need to produce a collective identity. This tension leads to an underlying instability within the texts and frequently causes them to deconstruct their own ostensible ideologies. However, at the same time the texts offer a number of powerful ideas and narratives which allow the diaspora to create a complex but meaningful collective identity.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies


Stafford, Jane; Williams, Mark