Migration and the search for home: a sociological conversation with C. Barwick, B. Bilecen, P. Mepschen and P. Statham

Within the CES annual meeting in Chicago, last March 29, an Author-meets-critics session on Migration and the search for home took place, involving Paul Mepschen, Christine Barwick, Basak Bilecen and Paul Statham, as well as Paolo Boccagni. All of these discussants spend some nice words on the book and on the view of “homing” which informs it. At the same time, they raise interesting criticisms and open up new questions for the study of home and migration.
More specifically, Paul Mepschen (University of Amsterdam) highlights the lack of a concern – in the book, and possibly in the home literature – with racism, and with the influence of nativist policies on the capability of migrants and their children to feel at home in their everyday life.

In the following contribution, Christine Barwick (Humboldt University, Berlin) argues that the “homes” migrants come from are not necessarily positive or inclusive ones. There is no reason, as a consequence, to assume that migrants really want to reattach their “old” sense of home to their “new” circumstances, rather than looking for new forms and patterns of home. Likewise, what home feels and looks like for second generations is far less clear than for their immigrant parents. Still another issue, for comparative analysis across “home studies”, lies in the variable meanings associated with the correspondents of home in different languages.

What can languages tell us of what home means through different national contexts?
Next, Basak Bilecen (Harvard University) highlights the need to appreciate more the variation between different immigrant profiles, as well as the contrast between the romantic aura of home and a variety of oppressive home experiences – families with abusive parents, and often the living conditions of LGBT minorities, being cases in point.
Last, Paul Statham (Sussex University) invites to an-indepth assessment of the current position of “home studies”. Is this a debate that remains closed circularly into itself, or does it connect with mainstream sociology and migration studies? Is there anything like a general theory of home? If so, does Migration and home aim to establish it or, rather, does it unpack specific contexts in which home is variously constructed, depending on different kinds of migrants? And again, is home the explanans, which explains how migration takes place, or the explanandum, i.e. what is being explained by other factors? As important, what is the conceptual added value of home/homing, relative to notions such as social capital, social imaginary, or opportunity structure?
In his rejoinder, Paolo Boccagni offers some preliminary answers and sketches some ways ahead to address the others. HOMInG itself, of course, is part and parcel of them!