From January 2018 onwards, HOMInG will be paralleled by HOASI, a new study of Home and Asylum Seekers in Italy.
This is a MIUR-FARE Research project on the home experience and trajectories of forced migrants in Italy, awarded to Paolo Boccagni in 2017 (see a short description below; for more info, see fare.miur.it). HOASI will employ some new postdoctoral researchers for in-depth fieldwork to be done from autumn 2018 onwards. The relevant Call for positions will open in late spring, 2018.
HOASI refines and deepens the purview of ERC HOMInG, through an in-depth and comparative case study of the housing conditions and trajectories, and the underlying views and experiences of home, among newcomer asylum seekers in Italy. It investigates the material and spatial bases of the interaction between forced migrants and welcoming and reception facilities and workers: the most visible, but far from obvious or straightforward side of the so-called refugee crisis. This issue has been widely covered in the public debate, but not yet enough in terms of rigorous empirical research, rather than through simply descriptive or openly ideological accounts. Against this background, HOASI investigates the material and relational underpinnings of newcomers’ “refugee careers”, from first reception onwards, with a focus both on their dwelling conditions and the attendant views and emotions of home, or of the lack of it. Such a study will be revealing of the variable social impact of reception initiatives, on the one hand; of migrants’ own attitudes, expectations and “biographical investment” towards their country of settlement or at least of transit, on the other hand.
HOASI pursues four research aims concerning, respectively, the views and feelings of home emerging from migrants’ reported life and mobility trajectories; the material bases and ordinary practices whereby they try to reproduce meaningful aspects of their past sense of home, and/or attach it to their changing life circumstances; the housing arrangements to which forced migrants gain access in Italy, at different stages of their asylum careers, hence the potential for reception infrastructures to be a source of home feelings; the evolution of migrants’ home conditions, both in a material and socio-relational sense, parallel to their life course.
Against a background of limited and highly unequal facilities for asylum seekers’ reception, let alone integration, this research approach might look like unnecessary luxury. Precisely because of the uneven and often low quality of the existent service provision, though, an original investigation of its impact on immigrant clients’ sense of home is invaluable to re-orient it strategically, besides being a significant theoretical issue. What home means, how the loss of the past homes is coped with, how far a sense of home is attached to present life circumstances – rather than being nostalgically recollected back into the past or projected ahead into the future – are all major questions for refugee studies.
Methodologically speaking, the project team – i.e. the PI and three post-docs – will conduct ethnographic and comparative fieldwork across Italy, based on three research strategies: in-depth biographical interviews with forced migrants, ethnography of reception facilities and informal dwelling arrangements, “home shadowing” over time of individuals and families with a forced migration background.