ASA14: Anthropology and Enlightenment

(P10)

Imaginaries of home

Location Playfair Building, Fellows Library
Date and Start Time 21 June, 2014 at 09:00

Convenors

Ullrich Kockel (Heriot-Watt University) email
Vitalija Stepušaitytė (Heriot-Watt University) email
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Summary

Our interdisciplinary panel on home engages with interpretations, translations, transformations and adaptations of 'home' in different contexts, drawing attention to the cultural embeddedness of 'home' as well as to its ecological relationality.

Long Abstract

Home' is a fluid concept in today's transnational world. How are cultural expressions of home, or 'home' as a cultural concept, affected and shaped by cultural encounters? Is home a social (with you) or individual (within you) phenomenon that can be grasped ontologically, even if it is different for cultural actors? Transnationalism involves processes whereby traits originating elsewhere are (gradually) understood in terms of, and adapted to, the local, or whereby a person originating elsewhere gradually comes to terms with and adapts to his/her new locale (and the locale with/to him/her). Our interdisciplinary panel on home engages with interpretations, translations, transformations and adaptations of 'home' in different contexts, drawing attention to the cultural embeddedness of 'home' as well as to its ecological relationality. We are interested in comparing the un/homely stories of migration - both those of the marginalised migrants (e.g. asylum seekers) and those of the economically privileged migrants (e.g. highly paid professionals) - with the stories, memories and emotions of those who stay at home. By referring to cultural imaginaries in our title, we explicitly seek to connect research on home in diverse fields such as ethnology, anthropology, sociology, architecture and linguistics with literary and artistic perspectives.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Leaving 'home' behind: methodological nationalism and the limits of the idea of home

Author: Franz Buhr (University of Lisbon)  email

Summary

This paper problematizes the extent to which methodological nationalism has overshadowed the dynamics of immigrants’ groundedness in the place of settlement. It then provides an alternative approach, that of home-making, changing its focus from ‘home’ as an entity to the processes which ‘make home’.

Long Abstract

After a first profusion of generalities on the growing unimportance of space and place in an era of postmodern nomadism, diaspora scholarship began to examine the ways through which spatiality and attachment to place still remained crucial for the study of immigrants. One of the ideas which regained a central position in the debate was that of home. Nevertheless, most assumptions regarding the notion of home within migration scholarship remained deeply reliant upon methodological nationalist perspectives. In so being, immigrants and diaspora 'communities' began to be addressed only to the extent to which they maintained economical, cultural or political affiliations towards 'home', meaning the sending country. Home, homeland and country of former residence were amalgamated into one entity whose definition seemed unproblematic to the researcher's eyes.

My aim in this paper is to propose a more grounded working concept to the idea of home, one which does not assume that home has an essential meaning in advance of its making. In lieu of a substantialist or thick definition of home, I propose a thin or procedural definition; instead of being bounded in idealised/essentialised nouns (a house, a city, a given bounded entity), home-making would shed light on the processes (verbs, actions) of space/meaning-making, the lived experience of locality, the actualization of space in terms of (dis)orientation, (un)familiarity and estrangement. Finally, I will argue that working with the idea of home-making rather than with that of Home allows us to disentangle the study of immigrants' everyday practices from methodological nationalism.

Heimweh/Homelonging: deportation, storytelling and the lived experience of home

Authors: Christine Moderbacher (University of Aberdeen)  email
Annika Lems (University of Bern)  email

Summary

In our presentation we will explore the means and possibilities of approaching how being-at-home or being-without-home is actually lived by moving towards a genuinely existential understanding of the way people connect to places of belonging, focusing on the ethnographic video project Homelonging.

Long Abstract

Our time, an era some have reluctantly come to call postmodern, is marked by travel and migration. John Berger even describes the feeling of uprootedness this brings with it to be the "quintessential experience" of today's world. In many theoretical texts migrants and refugees have been celebrated as champions of a placeless, deterritorialised, or dis-placed imagination of belonging. Although the fascination with a sense of homelessness that marks these works seems to echo a sentiment many Western intellectuals can identify with, the question of how being-at-home or being-without-home is actually lived often remains unanswered. In our presentation we will explore the means and possibilities of approaching these questions by moving towards a genuinely existential understanding of the way people connect to places of belonging. Attempting to move away from conventional textual interpretations, we will focus on the experimental ethnographic video project Heimweh/Homelonging, in which we engaged with the potentials of visual representations of home and belonging. Zooming in on an unconventional story of displacement - the story of the forty‐five years old Austrian Gabi who was deported from the United States after she had lived there for over fifteen years - the project throws light on the ambiguous interplay between emplacement and displacement in a world of movement. Using the camera as a storytelling tool that involves narrative, bodily and sensorial dimensions of home, we will discuss the possibilities of combining contemporary video art and anthropology in creating a more nuanced understanding of emplacement.

Palestinian cultural expressions of home in Britain: displacement, place and belonging

Author: Stephanie Anna Loddo (EHESS)  email

Summary

This paper focuses on how Palestinians in Britain imagine and experience home through a shared history, travel practices and the articulation of cultural rootedness with cultural hybridity, in relation to dimensions of power such as class, gender and generation.

Long Abstract

This paper focuses on the cultural expression of home among Palestinians living in Britain. Palestinian experience of displacement and movement has historically been based on a traumatic uprooting and a shared sense of dislocation, estrangement, and uprootedness. My ethnographic findings in Britain indicate that a great deal of the resources of that specific diaspora is invested in the construction and perpetuation of all sorts of ties and loyalties towards the homeland and the community. However, being on the move surely characterises the Palestinian condition, and Palestinian identities have been to a great extent forged and transformed through the many episodes of displacements that have historically marked the diaspora. Similarly, Palestinian constructions of belonging in Britain reflect a variety of positionalities and attachments in which are articulated practices of rootedness and mobility.

Focusing on how home is imagined and experienced through a shared memory and history, travel practices and the articulation of cultural rootedness with cultural hybridity, I will explore how Palestinian conceptions of home relate to the tensions and negotiations emerging from individual and collective complex positioning in relation to place and belonging, which will illustrate the multi-layered aspect of diasporic identifications. Processes of construction and transformation of physical and emotional ties to different cultural and political spaces will be looked at in their articulations with specific dimensions of power, such as class, gender or generation.

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Struggling for home where home is not meant to be: a study of asylum seekers in reception centres in Norway

Authors: Anne Sigfrid Grønseth (University College of Lillehammer)  email
Ragne Øwre Thorshaug (NTNU, Norwegian University of Science and Technology)  email

Summary

This paper focuses on how asylum seekers in Norway struggle to create a sense of home within physical surroundings that contest their right to create a home. We explore how people experience, use and understand the physical environment, and how home-making take place in temporary dwellings.

Long Abstract

This paper focuses on how asylum seekers in Norway struggle to create a sense of home within physical surroundings that contest their right to create a home (as here). Asylum seekers are one of the residential groups in Norway, as elsewhere in Europe, having the poorest housing conditions. They tend to live in overcrowded old buildings built for other purposes than providing homes. While the low standard may be justified with the intended temporariness of their stay, many live in reception centres for years, waiting for answers to their application for asylum. The study recognises home as both a material dwelling, and an affective space shaped by imaginations, feelings and senses of belonging, linking together the physical space and its aesthetics with cultural, sensorial, emotional and imaginative processes. From this perspective we analyse asylum seekers' physical surroundings and material dwellings along with home-making practices and home-making narratives. We explore how people experience, use and understand the physical environment, and how the processes of establishing homes in temporary dwellings take place. Methodologically we combine a web-survey with short-time field visits to reception centres focusing on participant observations, informal talks and in-depth interviews with asylum-seekers and staff. Currently we have visited 6 asylum centres, while we also intend to make a richer ethnographic material. Preliminary interpretations suggest that asylum-seekers in Norway face serious challenges in their efforts of creating a sense of home needed to uphold emotional well-being and mental health, which in turn affect social relations and integration.

Hom and Honiara: interpreting, importing, and adapting "home" in Solomon Islands

Author: Rodolfo Maggio (University of Oxford)  email

Summary

Elements of "Hom" can be identified in the peri-urban everyday life of Gilbert Camp community. These elements are relevant for the very existence of the community itself. They are part of a relational attempt to create a “home” for a population of settled immigrants.

Long Abstract

Gilbert Camp is a squatter settlement situated across the south-eastern segment of the Honiara town boundary, thus belonging at once to the City Council and the Guadalcanal Provincial Government. Divided into two distinct administrative territories, Gilbert Camp is inhabited by a population of immigrants from other provinces, especially Malaita. Caught between two differently foreign entities (the Solomon Islands State and the Guadalcanal Province), people in Gilbert Camp experience confusion and the need to create a sense of belonging to the place. They do so by voicing their discomfort with the current land policy; by promoting the enforcement of a hybrid legislation through the collaboration of local chiefs and the National Police; by creating rituals that adapt their economic priorities to their traditional moral concerns; and by making a selective usage of local forms of Christianity to accommodate new ideas of masculinity within their patriarchal domestic arrangements. These activities are telling of an attempt to import their interpretations of Hom into the context of the Honiara squatter settlements. In this paper, I demonstrate the presence of elements of Hom in the peri-urban everyday life of the community and discuss their relevance for the very existence of the community itself. I argue that Hom is not simply an idealized interpretation of traditional life, imported and adapted to the urban context. Hom is part of a relational attempt to create a "home" for a population of settled immigrants.

Diaspora as home: the global community of Ahmadi Muslims

Author: Marzia Balzani (New York University, Abu Dhabi)  email

Summary

The Ahmadi Muslim’s have converted the exilic fracturing of home into a resilient transformation of diaspora into home, a transformation that is remarkably responsive, both ideationally and practically, to the political, economic and cultural realities of globalization.

Long Abstract

In under one century the spiritual home of the Ahmadiyya Muslims and physical home of their leader, the Khalifa, has moved from India to Pakistan to London. The Khalifa's move was not solely a communal dislocation but part of a diasporic spread of Ahmadis. Originally of South Asian heritage, the transnational proselytizing Ahmadis have made London their home and are now British citizens, often twice migrants from East Africa or Europe and converts from diverse ethnic backgrounds and cultures. Persecution in Pakistan has resulted in exile and refugee status for many Ahmadis and in the necessity to make a home in a new land, including active mosque building to transform London into a recognizable Muslim space. The construction of collective memory and tradition has been central to Ahmadiyyat. While some collective experiences of migration encompassing memories and myths of the original homeland and beliefs that they are not fully accepted by their host country apply, others such as the idea that the ancestral homeland is a place of eventual return require a more complicated historical explication. For, in the Ahmadi eschatological vision, the eventual conversion of the planet to Ahmadi Islam is the future, and therefore no single place can constitute a homeland site for return when the whole globe is to become theirs in the fullness of time. Of course, should such a time come to pass it will, by definition, constitute the very negation of diaspora as the whole world will be 'home'.

The concept of "my father's home" as an anchor for Latvian solid identity constructions in the era of liquid modernity

Author: Rūta Muktupāvela (Latvian Academy of Culture)  email

Summary

One of the most stable concepts, obtained from biographical narratives during field work in 2013, is the concept of "my father's home". Through the narration of migration experiences it becomes a significant psychological and cognitive anchor in the process of construction of local identity.

Long Abstract

In the situation of liquid modernity (Bauman) it is just the local identity, which can provide the feeling of stability. Biographical narratives, obtained during field work in 2013 in two Latvian provinces - the vicinity of Svētupe and Valka, reveal the concept of "My father's home" as one of the most stable. As a symbolic equivalent to the Beginning and to harmonious existence, and as archetypal "source of happiness and strength", this concept also can be found in migration (urban, post-WW2 political, modern economical) narratives. Memories and sentiments of "father's home", present in individual experience of local inhabitants, have a significant effect upon their attitude towards the outer world, whereas the concept itself becomes a significant psychological and cognitive anchor in the process of construction of local identity, assigning certain meaning to a real or imaginary place. The research showed that inhabitants of province are conscious about their own, their parents' and their children's home, about natural and cultural values in their vicinity. The more individuals are connected to a certain place, the more explicit are the signs of their local identity, and the less they pay attention to the negative side of their habitus (Bonaiuto). There is a positive correlation between high level of awareness of local identity on one side and the readiness to care and look after the local environment aspects - cultural landscape, traditions, language, social ties etc. - on the other, thus enriching national culture in general.

Talking about home: immigrant narratives from the north-east of Scotland

Author: Nicolas Le Bigre (Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen)  email

Summary

Immigrant narratives derived from field interviews reveal the breadth of interpretations of 'home'. This paper demonstrates the multiple characteristics of 'home', and aims for an inclusive theoretical analysis of immigrant narrative that brings together the voices of fieldworker and contributor.

Long Abstract

Immigrants, both recent and established, interpret and interact with the concept of 'home' in myriad ways. Indeed, the notion of 'home' is dynamic, and its meaning depends on time, geography, life experience, relationships, and current context, among other things. Basing my analysis on one-to-one interviews with immigrants in the north-east of Scotland, I will examine how contributors themselves view and shape concepts of 'home'.

In listening to these interviews, it becomes clear that the idea of 'home' is multivalent. Different 'homes' co-exist and perform diverse and often symbiotic roles in everyday life. Some 'homes' may be may be place-rooted, such as birth-countries or ancestral homelands; for many immigrants 'homes' can be found in current geography; and for growing numbers of individuals who have lived in several different regions and countries, 'homes' may also include some of these 'in-between' locations. Further, when discussing the realities of work, family, and leisure, and the abstractions of memory and identity, 'home' might appear as layered memories, times, concepts, and even people.

Most importantly, these narratives show that notions of 'home' do not exist in stasis but are ever-changing, depending on context and varying with an individual's needs and desires. By considering these notions of 'home', both in concept and in consciousness, I aim for an inclusive theoretical analysis of immigrant narrative that brings together the voices of fieldworker and contributor.

Something is burning: house, home and homeland in Cesare Pavese's The Moon and The Bonfires

Author: Nourit Melcer Padon (Hebrew University, Jerusalem)  email

Summary

In Cesare Pavese's novel The Moon and The Bonfires, house, home and homeland are doubtful realities but very present imaginaries. All implicate the protagonist's personal responsibility, even though he has immigrated to America, and is back in Italy, a visitor now forgotten in his "native" village.

Long Abstract

Having lived half his life in America, Cesare Pavese's protagonist in The Moon and The Bonfires

returns to his native village in Northern Italy. The protagonist's childhood nickname, "Eel," fits him well: he has managed to adapt to each environment he lived in. Paradoxically, it is by negation that the protagonist defines his belonging to this particular village, since his natural connection by virtue of birth is undermined from the onset of the novel. A bastard, abandoned on the Church's steps, he returns to a place where he was probably not born, where his adoptive family is already dead, and where people do not remember him and only see him now as "The American."

The house Eel grew up in is inhabited by another family, whose son seems a mirror image of Eel's younger self. But the situation has worsened, and while his adoptive parents had eked out a living, the new lodgers seem in worse difficulties. Ultimately, the present tenant burns down the house in despair, along with its hapless dwellers. Eel cannot turn away, and is made to face the remnants of another fire, covering a drama unknown only to him. The centripetal narrative draws him - and the reader - further and further into a rediscovery of the nature of the place he has abandoned twenty years earlier, and more importantly, into a realization of his share of responsibility in the dramatic occurrences the village experienced in WWII.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.