HOMInG’s Paolo Boccagni will give a keynote lecture at the end of the international workshop on:
Displacement&Domesticity: Refugees, Migrants & Expats Making Homes,
to take place in Brussels next March 28-20. The workshop has been promoted by EAHN – European Architectural History Network. The convenor is prof. Hilde Heynen (University of Leuven), together with her research group. The main workshop tracks will be on “Rethinking domesticity”, “Practices”, “Historical perspectives”, “Domesticity beyond the home” and “Domesticity and the political”. The other keynotes will be prof. Peter Gatrell and Dr. Romola Sanyal.

See the title and abstract of Paolo Boccagni’s keynote below…

Domesticity – Home – Homing

Minding the gap between place-related experience and aspirations after displacement

 Paolo Boccagni (University of Trento – ERC HOMInG)


My keynote is an invitation to look at the dwelling conditions and trajectories of migrants and refugees in light of the interdependence between three analytical categories, i.e. domesticity, home and homing. Each category evokes something of the everyday lives of those who find themselves out-of-place after major biographical disjunctures such as displacement. Yet, it is only their cumulative relation that illuminates the material, relational and temporal dimensions of experiencing place after displacement.

What is constructed as domesticity, or the lack thereof, tends to articulate a view of home from the inside(r), focused on infrastructural conditions, house affordances, domestic rituals and material cultures. Yet, the subjective experiences associated with it, and the ways of getting access to space and negotiate “thresholds of domesticity” within it, call for a broader analytic. This can be developed in terms of home and homemaking, to highlight that any construction of the domestic is processual, interactive and contextual. All home-related claims for security, familiarity and control vary over time and space, between and within groups, and may be at odds with each other (what is home to some being non-home to most). While the field of home is bound to remain contested, there is still another (phenomenological) question: the experience of home involves an ongoing struggle towards a “better” condition, rather than its full achievement. This opens up to the category of homing, and to a still larger research and biographical field for those who went through displacement and extended mobility.

The latter processes do constrain, and potentially annihilate, people’s rights, needs and possibilities to carve out a special place of their own – a location they call home. The temptation is strong, however, to approach the aftermaths of displacement through analytical shortcuts: assuming the migrant or refugee condition as synonym with non-home; zooming down to any micro-form of homemaking as meaningul in itself (albeit insufficient to cope with structural marginality); seeing migrants’ home experience as the mere reproduction or retention of what they left behind. A homing perspective invites, instead, to appreciate the evolving interplay between the places migrants live in and their ongoing constructions of better ones, given their resources and structures of opportunities. All efforts to bridge between lived and aspired “homes” reveal a key biographical commonality between displaced people and their counterparts.