Nation and Migration: population mobilities, desires and state practices in 21st century New Zealand

NIDEA Researchers:

Francis L. Collins, Richard Bedford


Rutherford Discovery Fellowship


2015 - 2020

About the research:

Migration has long been a critical feature of how we imagine and enact national futures. This is particularly the case in settler colonial societies like New Zealand that have come to rely on immigration to support and enhance population wellbeing, economic development, and international relationships.

Yet, in a context of increasing temporary and circular migration, there is evidence that the relationship between nation and migration is being reworked in ways that challenge our conceptions of the stability of national populations and the capacity for the state to influence national futures.

In New Zealand, recent decades have seen a gradual delinking of migration and settlement such that many new migrants either do not desire or are not permitted to take up permanent residence. At the same time, many New Zealanders, including naturalised migrants, are looking elsewhere, particularly to Australia, for opportunities that will fulfil their own desires for viable livelihoods or enhanced prosperity.

This programme of research re-examines the relationship between nation and migration in this context of increasing mobility, temporariness ad circularity through three studies that address the changing patterns of migration into New Zealand, the trans-Tasman mobility of New Zealanders, and the role of migration in governmental imaginings and enactments of national futures.

The first study examines the mobility patterns and desires of new temporary migrants in three regional employment sectors that are commonly viewed as critical to national futures: trades workers in the Canterbury rebuild; dairy workers in Waikato; and nurses in the Auckland public health system.

The second project mirrors the first in exploring mobility patterns and desires of both native and naturalised trans-Tasman migrants in the urban agglomerations of Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

The final project builds on these migrant understandings of to, out of and through New Zealand focusing particularly on how migration is enlisted in visions for national future, the significance of diaspora and the political projects that seek to work on these populations. Cumulatively these projects constitute a programme of research that will significantly advance our understanding of the shifting patterns and dynamics of contemporary migration and their incorporation into national futures.

The research develops an explicitly multi-scalar (local, national, regional, transnational) and multi-directional (inward, outward and transit) approach to studying migration in tandem with an emphasis on the governmental targeting of mobility as part of the nation. More broadly, by building on the New Zealand case this work promises an understanding of the complex and dynamic relationship between nation and migration that incorporates rather than rejects the increasing fluidity of contemporary mobility.

Key Publications

Geographies of migration I: Platform migration

Francis L. Collins

Progress in Human Geography (2021)

‘Give me my pathway!‘: multinational migration, transnational skills regimes and migrant subjectification

Francis L. Collins

Global Networks (2021)

The Good Migrant: Everyday nationalism and temporary migration management on New Zealand dairy farm

Francis L. Collins & Thomas Bayliss

Political Geography (2020)

The moral politics of emigration: gendered figures of migration and the anxiety of diasporic return

Francis L. Collins & Salene Schloffel-Armstrong

Social and Cultural Geography (2020)

Legislated Inequality: Provisional Migration and the Stratification of Migrant Lives

Francis L. Collins

Intersections of Inequality, Migration and Diversification: the politics of mobility in Aotearoa/New Zealand (edited by Rachel Simon-Kumar, Francis L. Collins & Wardlow Friesen)

Intersections of Inequality, Migration and Diversification: the politics of mobility in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Rachel Simon-Kumar, Francis L. Collins & Wardlow Friesen

Palgrave Pivot: mobility and politics book series (2020)

Anxious desires: Temporary status and future prospects in migrant lives

Francis L. Collins

Emotion, Space and Society (2019)

Keeping Bodies Moving: Hope, Disruption and the Possibilities of Youth Migration

Francis L. Collins

Journal of Intercultural Studies (2018)

Healthy Diversity? Urban diversity and the potential of workplace encounters in New Zealand

Sandy Lee, Francis L. Collins & Rachel Simon-Kumar

European Journal of Public Health (2018)

Aspiration, desire and drivers of migration

Jørgen Carling & Francis L. Collins

Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (2018)

Desire as a theory for migration studies: temporality, assemblage and becoming in the narratives of migrants

Francis L. Collins

Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (2018)

Temporary Migration: non-citizenship and a fair chance at the future

Francis L. Collins

Fair Borders? Migration Policy in the Twenty-First Century (edited by David Hall) (2017)

Brain chains: managing and mediating knowledge migration

Wardlow Friesen & Francis L. Collins

Migration and Development (2017)

Temporary Migration and Urban Incorporation in Auckland

Francis L. Collins

University of Auckland (2016)