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About this book

This book explores the impact of transnational migration on the views, feelings, and practices of home among migrants. Home is usually perceived as what placidly lies in the background of everyday life, yet migrants’ experience tells a different story: what happens to the notion of home, once migrants move far away from their “natural” bases and search for new ones, often under marginalized living conditions? The author analyzes in how far migrants’ sense of home relies on a dwelling place, intimate relationships, memories of the past, and aspirations for the future–and what difference these factors make in practice. Analyzing their claims, conflicts, and dilemmas, this book showcases how in the migrants’ case, the sense of home turns from an apparently intimate and domestic concern into a major public question.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

1. A New Lens on the Migration-home Nexus

Abstract
Home is an everyday, vernacular notion which potentially holds very significant conceptual implications. Migration and the search for home defines it as a special kind of relationship with place – a culturally and normatively oriented experience, based on the tentative attribution of a sense of security, familiarity and control to particular settings over all others. Irreducible to either house or dwelling, home is an emplaced interpersonal process with irremediably prescriptive bases. It is also a valuable lens, and a research venue and subject, for migration studies. The migrant condition is unique in casting light on home by default, or from afar, and on the opportunities and dilemmas related to its achievement. Transnational migration need not entail a simple loss of home; rather, the complex interaction between home and migration should be critically and contextually explored. The concepts of migration-home nexus and of homing point to a way ahead to do so.
Paolo Boccagni

2. Researching Migrants’ Home

Abstract
Home, as an object of research rather than just a background to everyday life, raises interesting methodological challenges – even more so for the experience of international migrants. This chapter provides an overview of the “what”, “why” and “how” of social research into it. A heuristic matrix for the study of home is advanced, by combining levels of analysis (views, practices, settings) with conceptual dimensions (domesticity, materiality, spatiality, temporality). The promises and pitfalls of the prevalent methodological options are discussed, as well as the potential of research via participatory and mixed methods, and in a comparative perspective. While researching migrants’ home settings and relationships raises intricacies and dilemmas, it is critical to make sense of what home means to whom; to assess the prospects for achieving it; ultimately, to counterbalance the prescriptive and ideological bases of the home discourse with empirically grounded accounts.
Paolo Boccagni

3. Migration and Home over Space

Abstract
Migrants’ ways of homing, in a spatial perspective, can primarily rely on one physical location, on more than one, or on the evolving interaction between different settings and places. Such a perspective entails three analytical foci: the variable degrees of “portability” and “reproducibility” of home as a social relationship with place, and the factors that account for this; the persistent materiality of home, embodied in migrants’ dwelling places in their countries of settlement and of origin, to be studied in light of their manifold functions and meanings; the micro/macro scale(s) of the home experience, together with the boundary-making processes associated with its location and spatial distribution in migrant everyday life.
Paolo Boccagni

4. Migration and Home over Time

Abstract
Time matters to migrants’ experience of home in several ways. Feeling at home in a place is also – particularly for outsiders – a question of time spent there, of domestic routinization, of individual and family “regroundings”. Home assumes different meanings and emplacements over the life course, depending on key biographical transitions, including those related to migration. Home can therefore be appreciated as a starting point for individual biographies, as a source of meaningful memories and biographical continuity, even as an aim for the future. Migrants’ homing should be analysed as parallel to their housing and integration trajectories, in light of the variety of underlying physical locations, and of the tension between the long-term aspiration to an inclusive stability, and a prevalent sense of dwelling temporariness at present. Ultimately, it is only over time that one can appreciate homing as a situated set of emotions, cognitions and practices towards a “better” home condition.
Paolo Boccagni

5. Migrants’ Home as a Political Issue

Abstract
Home, as a place and an experience of it, has meaningful political implications, since it embodies the material and legal boundary between insiders and outsiders. Migration, as the life condition of those who are physically away from their previous homes and often marginalized from the natives’ ones, is a unique research venue on the political dimensions of home, at many levels: regarding the need and aspirations for new and better homes, whether achieved or not, which drive migrant life trajectories; for the metaphorical conflation between home and homeland, the nation, or the state, which pervades the public discourse of receiving societies vis-à-vis immigrants and their descendants; for the mixed significance of home, as a discursive and emotional resource in migration-related forms of political mobilization and claims-making.
Paolo Boccagni

6. Conclusion

Abstract
Migration and home are less opposite than mutually interdependent notions. Homing itself can result in quite different claims – towards belonging or control – depending on the underlying views and understandings of home. Sayings like “one can never return home” assume different meanings and implications accordingly. Migrants’ ways of homing, driven as they are by the need to question what is usually taken for granted, are revealing of the material and relational bases of the home experience at large. This leaves two questions to be relaunched: first, the bases of a new research agenda on the ways of constructing, emplacing and circulating home, related to migration; second, the potential implications of the migration-home nexus at a practical, policy-relevant level, as well as in other fields of research across social sciences.
Paolo Boccagni

Backmatter

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