Contributor(s)Swinburne University of Technology
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AbstractThe place and plight of asylum seekers has been the subject of prolonged debate around the globe. During the 2013 national election in Australia, all political parties campaigned vigorously and loudly on their capacity to manage the growing number of asylum seekers arriving from Indonesia by boat. This paper examines the question: How do young people constitute who is entitled to belong and not belong in Australia? To address this question, we draw on focus groups in 2013 and 2014 with students from diverse ethnic backgrounds in primary and secondary schools who were asked to respond to the question: What would you do about the asylum seekers arriving by boat if you were Prime Minister? Our paper addresses a gap in the literature about the discourses young people invoke in discussing asylum seekers and their entitlement to national belonging in Australia. We show how the shift in political discourses of national belonging from ethnic identity to civic responsibilities is manifest in young people’s views of asylum seekers. At the same time we put the theory of civic nationalism under empirical pressure by revealing the quandaries it poses for young people who are simultaneously caught within a moral discourse of Australia as a tolerant, welcoming multicultural society based on a ‘fair go for all’. Our analysis suggests that theories on civic nationalism underestimate the power of the multiple discourses that shape young people’s understandings of national belonging.
TypeSeminar, speech or other presentation