Accepted paper:

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


Franz Buhr (University of Lisbon)

Paper short abstract:

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’.

Paper 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.

panel P10
Imaginaries of home