Why study migrant houses in countries of origin? The question, which informs a number of case studies across HOMInG’s fieldwork, has been systematically addressed by Paolo Boccagni, together with Marta Bivand Erdal (PRIO, Norway), in a paper recently published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.
Migrant houses in countries of origin, referred to as ‘remittance houses’, are a visible marker of emigration. Case studies from diverse geographic contexts have explored their functions. Unlike the surrounding built environment, these houses span the local and transnational realities of migrant lives, while being grounded in specific places. We argue, first, for the need to move beyond locally-oriented reifying descriptions of what is a global phenomenon; second, for the need to analyse migrant remittance houses as part of a broader agenda for unravelling the practical and emotional significance of ‘home’ in migration studies. The paper unveils the constitutive dimensions of migrant houses: their roles as symbols of migration; their significance as economic investments; their presence as physical structures necessitating follow-up locally; their function as second homes for holidays and reminders of (elusive) return migration. Researching remittance houses is a source of insights on questions of broader theoretical relevance, like the temporality of migration, the reach and sustainability of migrant transnationalism and the forms of cultural diffusion associated with it. This calls for a distinctive methodological agenda to advance research, based on a typology of transnational housing investments, which differentiates the locations, functions and rationales of migrant houses.
Quote as: Paolo Boccagni & Marta Bivand Erdal (2020) On the theoretical potential of ‘remittance houses’: toward a research agenda across emigration contexts, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2020.1804340