Accepted Paper:

Home as a diaspora space: the practices of making homes and keeping houses among migrant domestic workers in Naples  
Lena Näre (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyses how Ukrainian and Sri Lankan domestic workers in Naples maintain and make homes across national boundaries and how the presence of a live-in migrant worker affects Neapolitan households. These are discussed as 'diaspora spaces'. The paper draws on a two-year ethnographic study.

Paper long abstract:

The proposed paper analyses how Ukrainian and Sri Lankan domestic and care workers in Naples maintain homes across and within national boundaries. Concentrating on the specific context of the city of Naples, the paper analyses diverse practices related to housekeeping and to the maintaining of homes and families. Home/house ("casa") is taken as the focus point in the paper as its stands out as a laden concept in research on Naples and Southern Italy. The starting point is to conceptualise home not only as a physical but as social, emotional, economic as well as symbolic space.

Firstly, the presentation looks at the practices of building a house in the country of origin practice that has been well documented in research on migration and diasporas. Besides concrete practices, symbolic meanings attached to this making of a future home are emphasised in this paper. Secondly, the paper looks at migrants' homes and families in Naples and how these homes are maintained in relation to the family networks in diaspora. Thirdly, in the case of domestic labour, employers' homes are often not only workplaces but workers' homes as well. This intimate context of domestic work and the relationships between migrant workers and Neapolitan employers is seen to be crucial for the migrant workers and their projects. Here, moral economics underlying migrant domestic and care work are analysed. Finally, the paper analyses the notion of home as a diaspora space, following Avtar Brah's (1996) conceptualisations in order to overcome the binary logic inherent in the ideas of sending/receiving country and migrant/native. Thus, the idea is to concentrate on the local context of Naples and its specific socio-cultural characteristics in order to understand diaspora not only as a quality of a specific migrant community but as creating spaces and practices transgressing the boundaries between "migrants" and "natives".

The paper is based on an on-going Ph.D. research on migrant domestic labour in Naples. It draws on a two-year ethnographic research conducted among East European (Ukrainian and Polish) and Sri Lankan domestic workers in Naples.

Panel IW04
Diaspora and migration