Accepted Paper:

Envisioning and inhabiting translocal domestic spaces: long-distance homemaking in a Punjabi Diaspora  

Author:

Sara Bonfanti (University of Trento)

Paper short abstract:

In the daily experience of Punjabi diasporans, homes make a threshold for seeing global household relations and local social connections. How can we tie the government of a migrant house in resettlement, with the simultaneous search for translocal homemaking?

Paper long abstract:

The paper addresses our most daily eco-system, the home, from the vantage point of the anthropology of migration. How is this environment imagined and lived by Diaspora groups, who defy normative sedentariness and literally "settle into motion" ?

Drawing on my multisite ethnography carried out between Italy and Punjab, I analyze a peculiar cultural geography of home, discussing some contested practices of homemaking in global migrations. I thread the tales of a transnational household shifting kin and possessions back and forth in order to inhabit their multiple houses across two continents, in both presence and absence.

Locating transnational homes reveals how migrant people envision, construct and timely reside in far apart but connected domestic spaces: from provisional or permanent dwellings in resettlement, to aspired and remitted to new abodes in the homeland. Long-distance homemaking strategies signal different engagements with properties, rural and urban landscapes and local communities. With tenancy being fiddly for immigrants (for administrative and informal sociability reasons in contexts of mounting diversity), budding expats' investments in real estate seek out city flats in gated residences or countryside family mansions. Social mobility can thus be detected through the simultaneous but ambivalent aesthetic re-production of homes in migration: if the right to housing is still denied to a large destitute population in South Asia, diasporans' middle class hopes materialize into neoliberal homes as icons of consumer display. Last, changes in domestic structural designs suggest new interpretations of space living at large in built and natural environments and stir the interest of committed development planners.

Panel P141
Oikos: households, markets and nation