Accepted Paper:

'Going home': the reality of imagined connections among young migrants in Belgium  
Shannon Damery (University of Liège)

Paper short abstract:

Home is thought of as a place of control, but for young people it is regarded as a place they inhabit rather than create. This paper focuses on young migrants’ home-making practices through the use of the imaginary and a focus on the young people’s cultural production and sensory environments.

Paper long abstract:

Home is present in most every person's life, and social scientists recognize home as more than a merely physical space. Whether a house or a nation, home may be temporal, imagined, remembered, or even a place one has never been (Cressey 2006; Olwig 1999). Research on 'transnational' (Glick Schiller 1995) home-making is becoming ever more common, but it is a relatively new practice to focus this research on young people.

Home is considered to be a place where one has control (Povrzanović Frykman 2002), but for young people it is regarded as a place they inhabit rather than create. Youth are often treated "as objects of adult activity" (Wulff 1995:1), who are not considered full members of society. Migrants transitioning to adulthood experience a double layer of special statuses due to their position of being feared, in need of protection, and 'outside' of society. My paper is partially based on fieldwork conducted in a refugee integration center in Austria, in 2010-2011, where I investigated the home-making practices of a group of unaccompanied Afghans, ages 16-21. My focus was on their creation of sensory environments and their material connections to their homes.

Building on this research, my current project is a study of migrants in Belgium, ages 15-25, with a focus on the imaginary and migrants' cultural production. Through the use of emplacement and sensory ethnography, I will examine their choices of connections to multiple communities and whether or not they make various places into their homes.

Panel P012
Independent child migration in an interconnected world