Edited by David Hall. Published by Bridget Williams Books, 2017. Reviewed by Simon Randall
Migration influences people in many different ways and at many different levels. It can be formative to a whole person’s self-identity, and, likewise, it can strongly influence whole community or national identities or political dispositions. Every New Zealander has a migration story somewhere in their family, and all of us continue to be shaped by them.
Recent events have made it particularly poignant to examine migration. I read Fair borders? Migration Policy in the Twenty-First Century against a backdrop of a pretty recent election season which in part focused on migration, lingering questions about national identity stirred up from the flag debate, Brexit, the appalling situation on Manus Island, ever relevant questions of the treaty and biculturalism, and increasing global xenophobia.
Fair borders? goes beyond just looking at migration, which in such a short text would be hard enough, but focusses on testing concepts of fairness against migration, making it a hard task indeed. The concept of fairness is examined through this process as well, never quite landing what fair is as the view shifts.
I found this book initially frustrating. It is formed of several voices and perspectives, heavy on context and narrative. This style allows it to present successfully global facts and personal truths alongside one an other. Given migration’s influence and the different scales it influences, this is useful and important. This examination from many angles, which is essential to tell the story, can be disorientating. This book lacks clear resolution of all of the questions it asks. All of this, in the end, is absolutely appropriate. We are far from landing what fairness looks like in migration, and the discomfort required me to question my views on the subject. We, as a society, need to embrace these big discussions, and I found this was a good prompt.
Tui Motu Magazine. Issue 222, December 2017: 28.