Missing rooms. Gender and generational reconfigurations in the homemaking practices of Eritrean refugees in Rome
Aurora Massa (CNR)
Paper short abstract:
What if the materiality of domestic spaces acts as an obstacle to migrants' enactment of the relational and symbolic values of dwelling? I analyse the consequences of inadequate housing in migrants' positioning within family networks, and the reconfigurations of gender and generational subjectivies.
Paper long abstract:
The materiality of migrants' houses (distribution of space, material culture, hygienic, cooking and perfuming practices) offers a privileged perspective on the multiple dimensions of the migratory experience, such as transnational kinship networks, memories and ideas of future, gender and generational conflicts, feelings of belonging. What if this materiality, perceived as "inadequate", acts as an obstacle to migrants' enactment of the relational and symbolic values of dwelling? Drawing on the author's ethnography of Eritrean refugees' homemaking practices in Rome, this paper explores the consequences of inadequate housing in transnational kinships and social relationships. Job insecurity, deficiencies of the housing system, rent prices, and discriminant attitudes of landlords towards African people, leave little room for Eritrean migrants in Rome to choose their accommodation, and force them into squatted apartments, shared flats, and makeshift shelters. Due to their material shapes and size, lack of privacy and safety, these can prevent migrants from starting a family, reunite with spouses and children, and hosting close and distant relatives. This contribution analyses how bad housing conditions hamper migrants ability to perform social roles (getting married, having children, hosting family members) to which - according to their age, gender, and condition of being migrants - they are supposed to adhere. Through ethnographic cases that show the interaction of macro-forces and micro-practices, it analyses the consequences on migrants' positioning within their social and family networks, the tensions in kinship relations and the reconfigurations in gender and generational subjectivies.
Houses and domestic space in the diaspora: materiality, senses and temporalities in migrants' dwellings