Imagining an African Community: African women in Western Sydney and the politics of sharing
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 01:07 authored by Claire Farrugia
This thesis focuses on the sharing practices of women from different African backgrounds living in western Sydney. It takes as its starting point that sharing; the sharing of material resources, support, friendship and space can re-politicise functionalist explanations of migrant solidarity and social capital. How, what, where and with whom we share reveals a critical intersection between formal and informal support for migrant and refugee communities. I foreground the alternative imaginaries of community, social space, labour and belonging that African women share, in order to provide a more nuanced empirical and theoretical account of the lived experience of migrant resettlement under competitive forms of service delivery.The ground-up perspective of everyday multiculturalism is combined with feminist theories of political economy and citizenship, to help trace the struggles that women face 'entering the public' as they expand their informal practices of sharing to organise community events with public funds and within public spaces. Multi-sited and participatory ethnographic research was conducted in Sydney between 2012-2015 and 30 semi-structured interviews with service providers and community members were also recorded during that time. Faced with restricted funds and competing systems of value, accountability and risk, key community leaders speak to being caught between the sphere of unpaid work in informal community spaces and paid work with resettlement services. The woman who broker between these spaces are forced to enact an 'unruly mobility' to imagine and practice an African community on their own terms. Their mobility is unruly in that it draws on and contests,multiple norms of behaviour and action and creates a corresponding bricolage of public and private resources. The continued struggle to share social and material resources with one another allows African women in Sydney to reconfigure the boundaries, spaces and terms upon which they enter and move through the nation. Their community work troubles the distinctions between the informal and formal, unpaid and paid, public and private and generates new knowledge regarding how competitive forms of service provision influence collective processes of identification and belonging.