Struggling for home where home is not meant to be: a study of asylum seekers in reception centres in Norway
Anne Sigfrid Grønseth
(Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Lillehammer)
Ragne Øwre Thorshaug (NTNU, Norwegian University of Science and Technology)
Paper short 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. We explore how people experience, use and understand the physical environment, and how home-making take place in temporary dwellings.
Paper 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.
Imaginaries of home