Working papers

HOMInG WP 4_2018
Pnina Werbner

Migration and the sacralisation of new homes

As transnational migrants settle in a new country, they transplant and naturalize cultural objects, performances and categories, not simply because this is their tradition or culture, but because as active agents they have a stake in particular aspects of their culture. ‘Culture’ as a medium of social interaction confers agency within a field of sociality and power relations. Against the essentialist critique of community and culture, this essay suggests that in conferring agency, the performance of culture creates a field of transaction and relatedness; second, that culture as performance, in being embodied, contains inescapable experiential force; and finally, that culture as a discursive imaginary of selfhood, identity, subjectivity, and moral virtue constitutes a field of power. The domestic rituals that immigrants celebrate in distant and alien places are thus usually elaborated with cultural images and objects derived from their homelands. This transfer of images from one cultural context to another is an evident feature of the migration process. It enables migrants to sacralise their new homes through events that involve nurture and sociability within the home and which bring together newly emergent circles of trust forged in the migration context: kin, friends, and neighbours. The present essay discusses such rituals comparatively across different migrant groups settled in different countries.


HOMInG WP 3_2018
Sara Bonfanti, Aurora Massa, Alejandro Miranda

Setting the table, having a seat. A reflection on positionalities while searching for home and migration 

It is widely recognised in contemporary social scholarship that knowledge is produced and shaped by the researchers’ specific social positions, and the way these interlace with the positions held by research participants. While conducting ethnography inside (and beyond) domestic environments makes this evident, it also challenges the ethnographers’ assumptions because of their constantly shifting positions while examining homemaking in the context of extended mobility. This paper reflects on the positionality of three social science researchers collaborating in a common project while conducting fieldwork on homemaking and migration in different locations with different reference groups. Emerging issues of insider/outsiderness, gender and racialised bodies, and class and education are exemplified with three ethnographic vignettes. We use these cases to suggest that the analysis of our positionalities as ‘guests’ inside and beyond our informants’ domestic environments offers the possibility of more nuanced and critical forms of knowledge, and allows us to make decisions based on such understandings while still conducting fieldwork.


HOMInG Working paper no. 2_2018
Paolo Boccagni, Sara Bonfanti, Alejandro Miranda, Aurora Massa
Home and Migration: a Bibliography

The literature on homemaking and migration covers a vast array of disciplines, case studies, and substantive/methodological approaches. While being almost overwhelming by now, it also tends to be disperse and parcelized. There are several instances of mutually relevant works (or even authors) that are not in contact with each other. Part of the “nexus” to which HOMInG refers has to do with the aim of overcoming this fragmentation. Our WP 2_2018 provides a map of this burgeoning research field by key categories, thus paralleling the theory-building work of the HOMInG team; and hopefully providing a good tool for those who are researching, worldwide, the social experience of home under the influence of migration, mobility and diversity. Unsurprisingly, almost all of the references below are in English, apart from some specific references in Italian (Italy being HOMInG’s home-place at present). Monographs (or even edited collections or special issues) are relatively few, compared with journal articles. It also comes as no surprise that key references can be found all across social sciences, and beyond.

While being reasonably extensive, this Bibliography is clearly selective – based on the relevance of the literature to HOMInG as a project – and exposed to the risk of missing important references along the way. Yet, scanning through it can give some refreshing insight for thinking, writing, or designing fieldwork. Indeed, we see it as a worthwhile effort, if only for the lack of any comparable overview on the intersection of migration and home studies. Of course, this is a higly temporary product – the snapshot of a constantly moving and expanding field. Therefore, it will be periodically updated. All suggestions for new and relevant literature are welcome at


HOMInG Working paper no. 1/2017
“Saving home from the pitfalls of the home, through homing. Towards a ‘positive deconstruction’ of the social meanings, functions and moralities of home”

The home holds an inclusive and supportive potential for vulnerable people which is both critical and under-explored. In order to advance research into it, this paper interrogates the material, relational and emotional conditions under which a particular domestic space is indeed a source of feeling-at-home for its dwellers. Such an exercise starts from a deconstruction of the ideological representations of the home as a necessarily and naturally “good” entity which, as such, should not be discussed, let alone researched, further. This commonsensical view touches deep chords and emotional needs in people’s everyday life. Nonetheless, much critical literature has led to more reflexive and nuanced views of what home means to whom, inviting to study the protective and inclusionary scope of the home as an empirical question, rather than (only) a normative ideal. While the human need to feel somehow at home seems to apply anywhere, regardless of social or cultural backgrounds, whether and how a domestic setting does overlap with home – as a distinctive source of security, familiarity and control – is a major research and policy issue. By revisiting the transdisciplinary debate on “home studies”, and based on my current research on home and mobility, this paper argues for a novel understanding of the environmental, family and personal variables which can turn a dwelling into a home; a complex, but critical transition for an empirically-based view of home to inform health and social care.