HOMInG @ SIEF 2017 – Ways of Dwelling

Two HOMInG researchers will participate, next week, in the 2017 conference of SIEF (International Society for Ethnology and Folklore) on Ways of Dwelling: Crisis, Craft, Creativity (Gottingen, March 27-30).

Paolo Boccagni will give a presentation on Homing in migrants’ everyday lives – a conceptual framework (session Home04- Makeshift homing, March 29 at 8.30am). Sara Bonfanti will present on Home-sick and home-seeking: Translocal homing strategies among Italian Punjabi households (session Mig10 – Translocal living and dwelling: homes in the making, March 27, 10.45am).

See the abstracts below! 

More info: www.siefhome.org/congresses/sief2017/index.shtml

Paolo Boccagni

“Homing” in migrants’ everyday lives: a conceptual framework

This paper elaborates on ‘homing’, primarily with respect to international migrants. Following a revisit of home as a special kind of social relationship with place, homing is advanced as a tool for comparative understanding of people’s potential and opportunities to make themselves (feel) at home, given their assets and external environments. In my understanding, homing encompasses the cognitive, emotional and practical processes whereby we try to carve out a particular life domain – ideally imbued with a sense of security, familiarity and control – to be relabelled as “home”. Homing stands also for the individuals’ life-long attempt to bridge the gap between the actual home experience and the desired/ideal one. In practice, homing is enacted in more or less successful, durable and “multi-located” ways. Home itself is less one bounded space than a tentative, emplaced aspiration. It shifts over the life and migration course, relies on variable material bases and is heavily affected (but not pre-determined) by social and structural factors, to be empirically explored. For international migrants and refugees, homing is uniquely shaped by the spatial and temporal distance between the here-and-now and what used to be “home” before, against limited opportunities for home-like spaces, routines and emotions. How far migrants recreate a sense of home in the present (rather than projecting it into the past or the future), and through which material cultures, relational infrastructures and housing arrangements, are highly innovative questions for the study of migration and home. A variety of ethnographic and biographical case studies can be revisited through this conceptual framework.


Sara Bonfanti

Home-sick and home-seeking: translocal homing strategies among Italian Punjabi households

Drawing from my multisite ethnography, the paper considers how long-term Punjabi migrants resettled in Italy and their families of origin devise and enact practices of home-making at a translocal level.
Basing my arguments on participant observation, life-stories and photographic data, I thread the tales of two Italian Punjabi households as they shift kin and possessions back and forth in order to inhabit their houses ‘here and there’, in presence and absence. Charting my hosting families through Lombardy’s hamlets and the Hoshiarpur district, I explore how diasporans imagine, build and (un)timely reside in far-apart but connected domestic spaces. On one hand, housing schemes of tenancy or ownership are often fiddly for immigrants, due to administrative and informal sociability reasons in wealthy northern Italian areas marked by swelling cultural diversity and social inequity. On the other, diaspora investments in the real estate market impinge on the urban and rural development of the burgeoning Indian Punjab, as expats and returnees seek out city flats in gated residences or countryside family lodges. Simultaneous long-distance strategies for ‘homing’ signal diverse public engagements with properties, landscapes and communities. Yet, hybrid arrangements of domestic aesthetics and ethics within the privacy of one’s house(hold) reveal the contradictory commitments that genders and generations may infuse their homes with.
With a narrative approach, the piece aims at describing these attempts at transnational home-making as an allegory of the motley diaspora’s search for bridging sedentarism and mobility, in my informants’ words for gaining some “unbound settledness”.