(2023). The Story of the Moving Islanders: Exploring Tuvaluan Migrants' Place Attachment and Sense of Belonging between the Homeland and the Host Land.
The Story of the Moving Islanders: Exploring Tuvaluan Migrants' Place Attachment and Sense of Belonging between the Homeland and the Host Land.
My PhD thesis focuses on the attachment of Tuvaluan immigrants to their homeland and the host land. It is motivated to understand the effect of migration on their place attachment and belonging, navigation across the island and ocean, and thoughts on climate change that threatens Tuvalu's continuity. I use place attachment theory because it is a useful theoretical lens to explore Tuvaluans' interrelationship with the homeland and the host land post-migration. I am particularly interested in understanding whether Tuvaluans' attachment to the homeland decays or persists post-migration and how they process their sense of belonging to New Zealand. The research uses mixed methods: a survey, Talanoa conversations (a Pacific storytelling approach) and participant observation from a three-month field trip to New Zealand in September – November 2019. My main findings indicate that the Tuvaluan participants keep a strong attachment to Tuvalu and develop an attachment to New Zealand. Attachment to both places does not exist in tension. Yet, certain variations reveal different degrees of personal, sociocultural and environmental struggles among some participants. The participants' attachment to Tuvalu is emotional, sociocultural, and nostalgic. Meanwhile, their attachment to New Zealand is mostly based on a functional place dependence, making Tuvalu the "home" and New Zealand the "house". Nevertheless, some participants' decaying attachment to Tuvalu becomes apparent due to socioeconomic and environmental pressures. Similarly, although New Zealand becomes the house or the home-away-from-home that provides safety and prospects, the participants experience socioeconomic and geographic challenges. These pressures and challenges in both loci lead to the emergence of solastalgia, a sense of alienation and stress. The research stresses that Tuvaluans are not mere future environmental refugees. Instead, they move and carry intricate transnational ties with the homeland they wish to preserve, embrace the alternative routes, and express their place attachment through social, cultural, and relational patterns. Abstract