Accepted paper:

Materialities of arrival. Urban dwelling, assemblage, and the aesthetics of belonging after migration


Friedemann Neumann (Goethe Frankfurt University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the societal process of arrival after migration, by taking a look at the domestic orders (of things) in an urban context. In shared life-worlds interactions and relations are emerging along assemblages of domestic objects, by which people are forming the contexts where they take place.

Paper long abstract:

The city can be regarded as a specific form of simultaneity (Lefebvre), as a sphere of encounters, exchanges, and coexistence of diverging orders and aesthetics. Arrival after migration is a process which includes practices of wayfinding, of inhabiting, and becoming familiar with unknown surroundings. This process also finds expression in the material orders of households that change or become contested in the course of arrival. The results of an ethnographic study on material orders of migratory dwellers in Germany suggest the assumption that growing familiarity is not so much expressed through objects as symbolic markers yet rather by the relations people create, maintain, and moreover disconnected by domestic devices. Thus, the ‘qualities’ of things can be as well understand as the manifold experience of relations (Merleau-Ponty) to people or places left behind, to pasts, the present, and notions of prospect living. In this paper, I will demonstrate, how migrants negotiate between needs and demands in more or less difficult conditions, and how they can create a home, as a specific individual domestic order. Arrival is a process of (post-)migratory social interaction and transformation: it goes along with shifting (gender) roles and relations, it requires a certain ability to adapt to new/unfamiliar conditions but often also necessitates to deal with hardship and loss. The ethnography of domestic material culture allows taking a look at the entangled and shared urban life-worlds, and on how proximity and distance occur along common interrelations that escape the aesthetic assumptions of many debates on migration.

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Piecing life together in impermanent landscapes