‘Whose home’ is a remittance house? What does it mean, and what difference does it make, to do research inside it? In a new HOMInG working paper, Paolo Boccagni and Gabriel Echeverria revisit the lived experience of migrant houses in the countries of origin, along multiple configurations, drawing on their fieldwork as ethnographers and guests in Ecuador.
Boccagni P., Echeverria G. (2022), Whose homes? Approaching the lived experience of ‘remittance houses’ from within, HOMInG working paper no. 14_22
This working paper revisits the emerging literature on so-called remittance houses along conceptual, methodological and self-reflexive lines. Building on our visits and stays in migrant houses in Ecuador over the last fifteen years, we discuss what “entering home(s)” means and what it enables a researcher-as-guest to understand, whenever a house embodies migrants’ efforts to visibly improve their life conditions and prospects in their countries of origin. By comparing visits into five different household and migration arrangements, we discuss questions of hospitality, of (in)visibilization of the absent ones through material culture, and of family and housing obligations being negotiated in a dual – local and transnational – framework. In all these respects, being in makes a critical difference. It also reveals the existence of a fundamental parallel between the life course of migrant families and of their remittance houses. The latter are like a palimpsest to reconstruct the former. Furthermore, our fieldwork opens up to further issues and dilemmas, moving “out” of the houses and “beyond” them. These include the tension between migrant exceptionalism and non-migrant normality and autonomy, as well as the significance of what these houses “do” in any circumstances, to illustrate the promise of further comparative research into transnational housing and migration.