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Open Lecture: My Father was a Race Alien

2 July 2014

My Father was a Race Alien: Globalisation and Immigration in New Zealand

Living in multi-cultural New Zealand today, it’s hard to imagine what life was like for those who came here from non-European countries during the 20th century and were classified as ‘race aliens’.

This is a tale of a young Lebanese man leaving behind the hardships of his home country to search for new opportunities in New Zealand during the mid-20thcentury. He marries a New Zealand woman, has two children, and they are compelled to integrate into this new culture and way of life, ignoring their Lebanese heritage.

Professor Michèle Akoorie, from the University of Waikato’s Management School, is one of those children. She will deliver her Inaugural Professorial Lecture on July 15 in the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts using her family history as an example of what it was like for those immigrants at the time.

“My sister and I were brought up as New Zealanders but our Lebanese heritage was down played,” she says.

“Growing up, I was ashamed of my background. We were different and had funny surnames and our father didn’t play rugby or drink beer like most New Zealand men of that generation.”

This family history had a profound effect on Professor Akoorie and led her on a research journey which considers aspects of globalisation and immigration in New Zealand.

“Research has uncovered that globalisation has enabled the rich to enjoy global mobility and power, while the poor remained local and become unhappy, so there’s a mismatch,” she says.

Working with fellow colleagues, Professor Akoorie interviewed a number of immigrants in order to understand better the emotional labour they experienced after relocating and how they coped with it.

“They are lured here by the idea of a clean and green environment, better education and work opportunities, however differences in background can lead to issues of culture shock, unemployment, over-qualification, employment discrimination and language barriers,” she says.

“The purpose of my presentation is to raise awareness of what it was like growing up in a mono-cultural society. It’s about how you try and fit in, which is easier now, but back then there was lot of prejudice.”

Professor Akoorie is a graduate of Auckland University and holds an MBA in Export Management and International Business (with distinction) from Cass Business School, London, and a DPhil from the University of Waikato. Her specialisation is International Management and she has published several books and a number of journal articles in this field.

Free and Open to the Public: Professor Michèle Akoorie’s Inaugural Professorial Lecture ‘My Father was a Race Alien’, is on Tuesday 15 July at 6pm in the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts. Inaugural Professorial Lectures are the University’s way of presenting new or newly promoted professors to the wider public.

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