Care-full encounters: Engaging with refugees and asylum seekers in Newcastle, NSW. (13934)
Increasingly refugees and asylum seekers (R/AS) are positioned as a problem that Australia must control, or exclude from the national space. Alongside these debates, R/AS do live in Australia and they continue to be (re)settled by the government. Therefore it is important to explore how difference is actually being negotiated by R/AS and other Australians ‘on the ground’. What types of encounters are showing the most potential for nurturing new ways of living together with difference?
Just bringing strangers together is often not enough (Valentine 2008). Certainly in some circumstances bringing people together can increase empathy towards Others, however it can also harden prejudice and reinforce notions of Otherness (Valentine, 2008). Many geographers now argue, encounters with some kind of shared purpose hold the most potential for facilitating togetherness (Amin, 2012; Fincher & Iveson, 2008) where people might engage in practices of meaningful contact to overcome difference.
This paper explores purposeful intercultural relations that come into being through care-full encounters evoked by the presences of R/AS in Newcastle, NSW. Drawing on fieldwork from fixed, formal, informal and transitory spaces of care, this paper sheds light on how difference is being negotiated ‘on the ground’. In particular the paper focuses on the possibilities generated by these caring encounters, despite the challenges of contemporary Australian political life.