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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Containerdeutsche : contemporary German immigration to Australia and Canada Radermacher, Ulrike


This thesis is a comparative study of contemporary German migration to Australia and Canada, specifically to Sydney and Vancouver. It explores the dynamics of the migration process from a phenomenological point of view. All events and circumstances in the migration process are seen as interrelated, and therefore important to the analysis. Furthermore, the meaning of a phenomenon can only be understood by exploring its context. Therefore, this study views contemporary German migration in its various contexts—how it is displayed in the social science literature and manifested in government statistics, how it is presented as common sense, and how it is experienced by the migrants themselves. Thus, the phenomenological approach attempts to be holistic. Using the phenomenologic-hermeneutic paradigm the thesis focuses on the subjective experiences of individuals; in terms of migrants' understanding of their own motivations, migration decisions, and the process of adjustment, and in terms of their understanding of other contemporary German migration experience. The study examines the migration narratives of a sample of thirty Germans who have migrated, or are at some stage of the process of migrating, to either Australia or Canada over the last twenty-five years. The specific analysis and interpretation of these accounts are based on the hermeneutic philosophy of meaning and discourse. The sample interviews reveal two levels of conceptualization in the subjects' accounts. At one level all migrants talk in a way that can be characterized as representing "common knowledge". On another level, the interviewees interpret their own personal motivations and experiences in a way which does not correspond to common knowledge. Interviewees commonly described the Neueinwanderer (new immigrant) as wealthy, arrogant business migrants, but none of the interviewees described themselves in those terms. In Australia it was commonly thought that Neueinwanderer have a difficult adjustment time, but most personal narratives related positive adjustment experiences. In Canada all interviewees believed that German immigrants had no great adjustment difficulties. The major finding of this thesis is that the conventional notions of linearity and finality with respect to migration need to be re-evaluated in the social science literature, government policies and common sense. The phenomenologic discussion reveals that modern migration, at least for certain groups to certain countries, is not a linear, discrete and final process. Instead, this thesis argues that migration is best seen as a comprehensive, recursive process of decision making, action (legal application and geographic move) and adaptation to a new environment.

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