Population Mobility and Indigenous Peoples in Australasia and North America

By John Taylor; Martin Bell | Go to book overview
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Emerging research themes

Martin Bell and John Taylor

This consolidation of groundbreaking research on Indigenous peoples' mobility in Australasia and North America provides a framework for eliciting emergent research themes. To this end, we are guided by Skeldon's (1997:17-40) global exploration of the links between migration and development in which he identifies several theoretical and conceptual approaches to analysis. These he labels as economic approaches, studies of diaspora, transition theory, and postmodernist views. In this schema he identifies a tendency to shift over time from simple, if rigorous, economic models, towards more complex, but more subjective approaches. Also noted is a clear demarcation in approach between those studies focused on internal and those focused on international population movements.

While recent treatises on mobility research in developed countries have called for greater emphasis to be placed on biographical techniques (Halfacree and Boyle 1993), such approaches have a long tradition in studies of mobility among Indigenous peoples, as indeed they do in the developing world (Skeldon 1995). In the New World context, attention to local contingency reflects the longstanding dominance of anthropological research in the study of Indigenous populations, initially as an integral part of the colonial project. Accordingly, a wealth of ethnographic, community-based studies provides much of the cultural and experiential evidence of group and individual mobility.

Among the insights underscored by these ethnographic analyses is a clear reminder that Indigenous populations have homelands that are encapsulated by settler societies, and that the structural situations facing Indigenous peoples in the twenty-first century are very diverse. While many remain within their traditional lands, the story of much migration elicited through ethnographic texts is one of dislocation, of populations uprooted and compelled, either by force of might or circumstance, to take up residence in "exile". To this end, much of the population redistribution and subsequent related mobility that is described in this volume fits well within the concept of diaspora. This term, which evokes the dispersal of population groups, refers in particular to non-voluntary flight from homelands. Using Skeldon's (1997:28-9) summary:


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