HOMING @ EASA 2018: STAYING, MOVING, SETTLING
Public Religion, Private Politics: Displaying Sikhism in Diasporic Houses
Religion is acknowledged as an important source of spiritual and mundane support in migration trajectories. Further, its public role in migrants’ demands for recognition and integration in Europe has received growing attention in recent decades. While current debates focus on public domains of religious pluralism (temples, congregation centers, urban spaces or media), little attention is paid to understand how religion inform migrants’ domesticity. Drawing from a comparative analysis of Sikhs in the UK and Italy, we analyze the ostensive ambivalence of domestic material culture in the Sikh diaspora. We consider whether home items and decors may reflect different temporalities in Sikh political/religious history and present politics of identity. The analysis traces how different family members – across gender and generational difference – conceive houses as spaces for (re)producing spiritual retrieval and/or for narrating ushered political experiences. We argue that, particularly in Italy, Sikh diasporic homes constitute an important context for the reconfiguration of the political role of migrant religion. While in public settings Sikhs tend to display de-politicized images of Sikhism in order to reassure local opinion and accommodate into the host society, ‘private’ homes more frequently address Sikh past upheavals and martyrdom. Houses emerge as important sources in the reconfiguration of diasporic identity. Their spatial organization and meanings are shaped by larger socio-economic and political contexts. In turn, the ways in which houses are inhabited voice the possibilities and limits of integration as well as alternative projects of family and collective existence.
Missing rooms. Gender and generational reconfigurations in the homemaking practices of Eritrean refugees in Rome
The materiality of migrants’ houses (distribution of space, material culture, hygienic, cooking and perfuming practices) offers a privileged perspective on the multiple dimensions of the migratory experience, such as transnational kinship networks, memories and ideas of future, gender and generational conflicts, feelings of belonging. What if this materiality, perceived as “inadequate”, acts as an obstacle to migrants’ enactment of the relational and symbolic values of dwelling? Drawing on the author’s ethnography of Eritrean refugees’ homemaking practices in Rome, this paper explores the consequences of inadequate housing in transnational kinships and social relationships. Job insecurity, deficiencies of the housing system, rent prices, and discriminatory attitudes of landlords towards African people, leave little room for Eritrean migrants in Rome to choose their accommodation, and force them into squatted apartments, shared flats, and makeshift shelters. Due to their material shapes and size, lack of privacy and safety, these can prevent migrants from starting a family, reunite with spouses and children, and hosting close and distant relatives. This contribution analyses how bad housing conditions hamper migrants ability to perform social roles (getting married, having children, hosting family members) to which – according to their age, gender, and condition of being migrants – they are supposed to adhere. Through ethnographic cases that show the interaction of macro-forces and micro-practices, it analyses the consequences on migrants’ positioning within their social and family networks, the tensions in kinship relations and the reconfigurations in gender and generational subjectivities.