Homing Interviews

HOMInG interview #35

HOMInG interview with Maja Povrzanović Frykman (Malmö University)

Conducted by Ilka Vari-Lavoisier

November 2019

Untitle1d“Military violence led people to re-discover the place of their daily life in conditions of thorough disruption of normality as they knew it. What can you do if your town is under siege and your home is turned into a place of fear and destruction? The notions of safety and coziness were not applicable, and yet, many people decided to stay in their homes not only during attack alarms, but also during actual attacks. Staying at home was a minimal, very private, act of resistance. At the same time, it was the safety of normality in one’s own home, the familiarity of the place, that could help people “forget” the danger. People who experienced life under siege also told me how they perceived their entire town as home.”


Homing interview #34


HOMInG interview with Cecilia Menjivar (Sociology, UCLA)

Conducted by Milena Belloni and Ilka Vari-Lavoisier

Trento, September 2019

MEN2.jpg“In cases of Central American women seeking asylum with which I work, the main objective of their asylum petition is precisely not to be sent home. These women are fighting the U.S. government’s decision to send them home, as that is the furthest place from security and comfort. They may be familiar with their home, but in their cases, familiarity does not invoke comfort. This could be true for anyone who has experienced any form of violence at home—the domestic space and their homeland. So for people seeking asylum, they have more complex relationships with home, and experience a dissociation of familiarity and security which are conventionally associated with home”.

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Homing interview #33

HOMInG interview with Loretta Baldassar

(Anthropology and Sociology, University of Western Australia)

LOR2Conducted by Paolo Boccagni in Perth in August 2019

“Home is a very different place depending on who’s left there. The kinning of people is very much tied to the kinning of place. Once your parents die, unless you have very close relations with siblings, which can be much more fraught, then your right to home needs to be negotiated”.



Homing interview #32


Research Professor at PRIO – Peace Research Institute Oslo

Conducted by Sara Bonfanti

In Malmo, at the IMISCOE Conference, on Fri. 28th June 2019

BB.jpg“I am a bit critical of the saying that goes “home is where the heart is”, which I find simplistic, at least if it is not pluralized. Home is always also a material space and a set of relations that change over time. From interviews with migrants… we really get the sense that homes can be – and often are – plural. Furthermore, people’s memory and projections of home change across the life course and as one’s socio-economic situation changes”.

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Homing interview #31

HOMInG interview with Margarethe Kusenbach (University of South Florida)

Conducted by Paolo Boccagni

October 2019

KU.jpg“All social relationships happen somewhere, even if located in virtual space. The meaning of places for people is often embedded in past, future or imagined social relationships with others, whether these others are people or pets or abstract others such as god or nature. A sense of home develops when one’s connection to a place (and, by extension, others) takes on particular emotional qualities, namely those of familiarity, shelter/comfort, personal expression and social belonging. When it exists, home is often unnoticed, just like the air that surrounds us. Ironically, home is perhaps most noticeable when there is something wrong with it or in its absence”.


Homing interview #30

HOMInG interview with Gordon Mathews
(Chinese University of Honk Kong)

Conducted by Paolo Boccagni

Trento, September 2019

MAT“Home is an ideal that is overwhelmingly positive for almost everybody. In reality it often does not fit that. There are hundreds of millions of people, or probably billions of people, for whom the actual home they feel is lacking – whether they are abused by a spouse or a parent or whether they are in poverty, home does not seem like home. But the ideal remains… It’s an ideal we live for. It’s incredibly powerful. But of course, it may have all sorts of real consequences”.


HOMInG interview #29

HOMInG interview with Helen Taylor

conducted by Paolo Boccagni

Trento, November 2018

“People have unequal access to the ability to define what their home will be. While some have the privilege to move, and the economic and social capital to make decisions on what home will be like for them, others have limited capacity for all sorts of reasons. Refugees don’t necessarily have the possibility to define what, where and how home will be for them… for those who lost their homes, there can bea very strong connection to a particular town or village – which is sometimes seen as the ultimate home, precisely because it has been lost. This can be the case even if, in reality, those who left wouldn’t want to return”.

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HOMInG interview #28

HOMInG interview with Peter Kellett

Conducted by Sara Bonfanti, Aurora Massa, Alejandro Miranda, and Ilka Vari-Lavoisier on 10 January 2018

kellet-1.jpg“Those of us studying informal settlements are in a privileged position to go beyond examining the use of space and processes of inhabitation, to also engage in the processes of creating, defining and building spaces.  Dwellings are occupied even before they are built – from the first days when all that exists are fragile structures.  These are slowly transformed through time into solid dwellings – meaning that the house-building and home-making processes happen at the same time… much of the policy literature is based on the reductive idea that housing is essentially about shelter – and overlooks fundamental human processes of home-making, of creating meaningful places where people can live in dignity”.

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HOMInG interview #27

HOMInG interview with Hilde Heynen

Conducted by Paolo Boccagni in Bruxelles, 28 March 2019

HH2“Modernity is about being uprooted and leaving the traditional home, but it also entails looking for a new and better home: the idea of a future Heimat, not the nostalgic heimat of the Nazis, but the ideal image of a world in which all people can pursue happiness in a just society; a utopian idea of Heimat.

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HOMInG intervew #26

HOMInG Interview with Ann Varley

Conducted by Sara Bonfanti and Alejandro Miranda in Trento on 17 January 2019

AV“What counts as home varies from place to place: even at the most basic level of the word we use. In Mexico, for example, hogar is probably the closest, but it isn’t quite the same. It means both ‘hearth’ and ‘household’. At the same time, people’s responses to questions we had asked about what home meant to them … reproduced, time and time again, the same sort of values that people in the UK would be likely to mention. People made close links between the home, family, and sense of self”.

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HOMInG interview #25

Interview with Peggy Levitt
(Trento, 11 April 2019)
Conducted by Paolo Boccagni, Sara Bonfanti and Ilka Vari-Lavoisier

LEW“Home is not just the house of the American dream. We found out that home is far more than that. Artists since the second WW have approached home as a network of relationships from the womb of mother to the self, to the house, to the neighborhood, to the the city, and then to the homeland. Artists have tried to capture these relationships in many ways.”

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Homing interview #24

Interview with Michelle Obeid

Conducted by Luis Eduardo Perez Murcia
at the University of Manchester, UK

OR“Creating or recreating home is probably the most obvious and complex way of making life ‘normal’, since home seems to be the most ‘normal’ or ‘basic’ thing that humans everywhere need, regardless of what shape it takes. Home of course can be mobile, or different for different people. Yet, it is one of those things that is cross-cultural and universal. So exploring how one makes home and what it means in different contexts, in relation to people, place and even nation, makes ‘home’ a productive concept”.


Homing interview #23

Homing interview with Michele Lancione

Conducted by Milena Belloni (Trento, 25th September 2018)

Michele_2016“Home is where everything starts. We have “the homeless” because our idea of home includes the possibility of being without home: you can be at home but you can also loose that home. That is what interests me about “home”. It’s impossibility. Even if home is the place where you belong, and where you have a nice life, there is always the potential to lose that. This complexity, this conundrum, is the whole point. Home is never something that is safe, that is neat and clean. It is always something that is contested within and outside; something that is lost and re-appropriated. ”

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Homing interview #22

HOMInG interviewwith Robin Cohen

Conducted by Ilka Vari-Lavoisier in Oxford, December 2018.

COH5“Without theorizing home and understanding its full complexity, diaspora is largely a vacuous concept. I find myself questioning two positions, both of which I think are simplifications. 1. Home is (only) one particular nation-state from which a diaspora was scattered and to which it continues to relate. 2. Home can be totally imagined, literally spaceless. In short, home has to be understood in all its complexity, not only imagined, or seen as only one nation-state”.

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Homing interview #21


Research Fellow at the Centre for Urban Transitions, Swinburne University, Melbourne.

Conducted by Paolo Boccagni in Frankfurt, 15 December 2018.

IL.jpg“The basic thing is that we all want to belong and feel at home. There is a similarity in the ways people construct home, even from different cultures, countries and cities, and even with very different built environments and different opportunities to do what they want. The feeling of home and the desire to feel at home is universal, I think. We all share it.”

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Homing interview #20


Reader in SocialGeography and Environmental Politics at Keele University.

Conducted by PaoloBoccagni in Trento, 21 June 2018

“For lower skilled and undocumented migrants it is very difficult to make anything that would resemble a home. My Filipino respondents would never describe the places they lived as home. There was not enough space there, they could not decorate them in a way they liked, nor have personal mementos displayed… so this wasn’t home, because my respondents believed home to be a place where the material culture is about them, their history, their taste… they were embarassed about their UK living spaces, but proud of the ones they were making in the Philipipines”.

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Homing interview #19

HOMING INTERVIEW #19with Maja Korac-Sanderson

Reader in Refugee and Migration Studies, Department of Social Sciences, Cass School of Education and Communities, University of East London.

Conducted by Luis Eduardo Perez Murcia in London in July 2018

Dr Korac Sanderson (2).png“While I was still living in Belgrade, and at the height of nationalistic frensy in the country, I felt that in some very important ways I no longer feel at home there. This, of course, is nothing unusual, because homes are not only places of comfort, protection and security. They are also and more often than not, contested places of insecurity and at times, oppression. Children and women, in particular, experience their homes often as places of repression, a quality that remains hidden behind the label ‘private’ that the notion of home carries. What is home and where is home is continuously in flux, even for those who stay put, let alone for those who no longer are in the place where they were born, where they grew up, and were educated. For those of us who also moved to places marked by a new language, cultural codes, and an unfamiliar social fabric of life, the meaning of home and the possibility of pinning it to one place is even more fluid, I think. Where I see and feel myself at home depends on what is most needed or important for my sense of self and related aspirations and life plans, in a specific moment of my life”.

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Homing interview #18

HOMING INTERVIEW # 18: Anne Sigfrid Grønseth

Professor in Social Anthropology at Lillehammer University College

Conducted by Aurora Massa in Stockholm on 16 August 2018

GR“During our research, we found asylum seekers engaged in what we would call homemaking processes: they buy things they like, they often have brought small things with them – such as a carpet from their sister or dresses from their mother -, they sometimes have things sent to in the post for them… at the same time they do not want these accommodations to be their homes. They can be seen to engage in homemaking practices, despite their poor living standard and limited access to material goods, they display and arrange objects in likeable ways, while also not wanting these things to make and be their home. In this sense, the asylum seekers can be seen to engage in a sort of fight against their inclination to make a home: they make home in a place they do not want to be their home”.

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Homing Interview #17


Professor of Anthropology and Social Theory, University of Melbourne, and Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Conducted by Sara Bonfanti on 12 Sept. 2018 – University of Trento

“Occupying a space does not necessarily mean you develop a homely attachment to it. That’s the case of many migrants: some of them may be physically at home but feel detached from it, whereas others might be away from home but still feel they are connected or belong to it. And there’s no simple equation between a place of origin and one of destination, or of several movements across time, as I tried to articulate about the continuous ambivalence of multiple spatiality for diasporic subjects”.

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Homing Interview #16

HOMInG interview #16: Tom Scott Smith

Associate Professor of Refugee Studies and Forced Migration,
Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford

Conducted by Ilka Vari-Lavoisier on 11 September 2018

TSSS“The things that made people’s experience, or daily life, difficult when living in shelters often came down to whether or not they could control what they ate, whether or not they could cook for themselves, whether or not they could control the lighting, whether or not they had privacy and whether or not they had a door and could actually lock it, whether or not the shelter was more or less integrated in the urban fabric, whether or not there were some sense of variation within the shelter, or whether it was just monotonous. In many ways those seem very basic things, but they just failed again and again”.

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Homing Interview #15

Homing Interview #15: Dirk Geldof

Senior Lecturer at the University of Antwerp and at Odisee University College Brussels.

Conducted by Milena Belloni in Berchem, Antwerpen on 12th July, 2018.

Photos by Jorge Alcalde. Extracts from the series “Antwerp… in the year 5777” : the Jewish quarter” and “A stroke of light… the neighbourhood” (www.jorgealcaldephotography.be).

“Housing pathways are very important I think. People’s preferences about housing change a lot over time due to their age, financial means, things they learned from their parents, what they are taking with them etc. Looking at what home means, implies also examining life trajectories and the crucial transition periods”.

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Homing Interview #14


bakeHOMInG interview
with Oliver Bakewell
Senior Lecturer at the Global Development Institute, University of Manchester
Conducted by Luis Eduardo Perez Murcia in Manchester on 15 March 2018

“I was always aware that I was staying in places where did not belong. That experience
led me to start using a simple definition that I find work for me: home is a place where I do not have to explain where I am there.”

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Homing Interview #13
Conducted by Milena Belloni
“Home is not an easy concept because it is pluriversal. It is used by many people, academics and non-academics alike and has a lot of different meanings. However, what is clear is that it is a relational concept. This means that it expresses a certain relation that a certain person or a group of people have with something or somebody else. This is often translated in terms of attachment and belonging. Now, when I think of home, I think of the first home of the human: the womb. That is the first ‘home’ and it says a lot about the concept in general”.

Homing Interview #12

HOMInG’s interview #12 (in Italian): Antonio Tosi

Conducted by Paolo Boccagni 

Tosi.jpg“Unlike ‘dwelling’, the concept of home enables us to move beyond bricks-and-mortar. It foregrounds, as a value, our relationship with a more or less extended surrounding space. This traditionally corresponds to our neighbourdhood, and that’s it. But if we opt for a selective use of territory, as people increasingly do, ‘home’ can reach far beyond the neighbourhood. What matters is the existence of a special relationship with the surroundings. This is what creates home as a value”.

Homing Interview #11

Homing Interview #11: Janetka Platun

Conducted by Luis Eduardo Perez Murcia

Dragons“Feeling connected to more than one place in my own mind is why I’m interested in exploring home as a concept as an artist. The more I explore the idea of home the more confused it becomes in my mind”.

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Homing Interview #10

Homing Interview #10: Nancy Foner

Conducted by Paolo Boccagni and Sara Bonfanti, on 9th May 2018 in Trento.


In truth, migrants often have romanticized views of home. These views may provide comfort in the migrant setting when they, like Jamaicans in London and New York, experience disappointments and prejudice and discrimination.  But if they do actually return, they face a home that is less ideal than they remembered and that often has undergone significant change since”.

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Homing Interview #9

Homing Interview #9: Olivia Sheringham

Conducted by Sara Bonfanti, on 12th April 2018 in Trento.

https://www.imi.ox.ac.uk/people/o-sheringham/@@images/image/w320“What fascinates me is to explore how people can feel at home in multiple sites. Home is a dynamic idea in itself, because it constantly calls for its opposite. To understand it, we also have to challenge what is not home: it may be a place of violence, fear or lack. For instance, what does home mean for the homeless? Or for someone who is about to be evicted from their dwelling? Moreover, the sense of home is transient, it shifts with one’s life course and depends on one’s household circumstances.”.

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Homing Interview #8

Homing Interview #8: Pnina Werbner

Conducted by Sara Bonfanti and Paolo Boccagni, on 9th and 10th November 2017 in Trento.

PWpi“Home comes to us as an emotive concept, linked to our childhood, to ‘natural’ homes, motherhood, nurture and love. It promises unquestioning acceptance: ideally, we don’t have to wonder if we will be welcomed there at any time, although in practice not everyone will have this lucky exeprience”.

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Homing Interview #7

Homing Interview #7: Daniel Miller

Conducted by Sara Bonfanti on 16th Oct. 2017


“If your situation is more fragile, if you have difficulties or lack of stability, then, I believe you need a much more fixed concept of home that provides you with that sense of solidity; and home may represent many things that you do not necessarily have. So, the point about home is that we are not talking of something which is only material or in terms of relationships, but of something that stands as an important presence and gives people in their life a sense of stability and foundation, something they feel most secure in relation to.”

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Homing Interview #6
Homing Interview #6: Jan Willem Duyvendak

Conducted by Alejandro Miranda on 13 September 2017


“Home became important in my scholarly work because in the field that was popping up dominantly and I started to think ‘who is researching emotions’? And emotions in sociology still are somewhat, I would say… it’s developing very quickly but there is still a lot to do”.

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Homing Interview #5

Interview with Melissa Butcher (Birbeck, University of London) 

Conducted by Sara Bonfanti, on Sept. 12th 2017

MB“From the perspective of social and cultural geography, home is a set of relationships and everyday practices with spatial and temporal dimensions. Participants in my work most often describe it as a space of comfort and security, whether that is a physical home of bricks and mortar, a neighborhood, or a nation-state”.

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Homing Interview #4

Interview with Stef Jansen (University of Manchester)

Conducted by Aurora Massa on 13 September 2017

“As an anthSJropologist, the way I came to conceptualize home emerged from my ethnographic research amongst displaced persons in the post-Yugoslav states. Nevertheless, the result of that inductive conceptualization of home is very much in line with Ghassan Hage’s definition…”

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Homing interview #3

Interview with Cathrine Brun (Oxford Brookes University)

Conducted by Aurora Massa, Sara Bonfanti and Alejandro Miranda on 12 July 2017.

“I am a geographer and what I do is trying to understand how the relationship between people and place changes through movement”.
Cathrine Brun (Oxford Brookes University). Photo credit: Therese Lee Støver. More information here.

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Homing interview #2

Interview with Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo (University of Southern California)

Conducted by Aurora Massa, Sara Bonfanti and Alejandro Miranda on 10 May 2017.


Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Southern California. Her research examines how Latino immigrants negotiate challenges with informal sector work, varied legal status, and changing gender, family and community relations. In her recent project, “Latinas/os in South Los Angeles (LiSLA)”, she studies the social processes of Latina/o integration in historically African American neighborhoods of Los Angeles, looking at public parks and urban community gardens, considering the extent to which these sites create a sense of place, belonging and civic culture. More information here.

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Homing interview #1

Interview with Irene Cieraad (Delft University of Technology)

Conducted by Aurora Massa, Sara Bonfanti and Alejandro Miranda on 10 May 2017.

Irene Cieraad is a cultural anthropologist and senior research leader of Architectural Design/Interiors at Delft University of Technology. Her publications focus on a wide range of topics, such as domestic space, cultural history of the Dutch domestic interior, cultural theory, consumer cultures and household technology. More information here.

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