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Refugees' domestic hospitality: a form of intimate engagement?
(University of Trento)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on ethnographic material collected with common citizens hosting refugees in their homes in Italy, this paper addresses contemporary reconfigurations of patterns of moral compassion, as well as the possibility of tracing the emergence of new forms of - deeply intimate - political action.
Paper long abstract:
While acts of solidarity towards migrants are certainly not a new phenomenon, following the EU "refugee crisis" several European countries witnessed an unprecedented involvement of citizens in a multiplicity of support initiatives to asylum seekers. Among them "refugees' domestic hospitality", namely common citizens hosting refugees in their homes, stands out as particularly meaningful - if not numerically, at least for its compelling symbolic import. Indeed homesharing experiences, by placing immigrants' dwellings at the hearth of natives' homes, question contemporary reconfigurations of patterns of social engagement and moral compassion. Drawing on ethnographic material collected in the North-East of Italy, this paper explores experiences, motives and perceptions of "hosts" and "guests" involved in refugees' hospitality. Whilst hospitality practices are certainly embedded in asymmetric dynamics of dependence and power, it is undeniable that by letting the "Other" cross the intimate threshold of the domestic, many families and individuals express their will of standing up against the xenophobic attitudes that are (re)gaining momentum in contemporary Italy and Europe. Ultimately, by exploring the complexities of those subjective engagements, this paper addresses the possibility of tracing the emergence of new forms of - deeply intimate - political action.
Helping in an era of hostility: Political agency and moral contestations in civil society movements for and by migrants