Accepted Paper:

The Illam in the diaspora: gendered spatialisation of houses and home-making in transnationalism  


Ester Gallo (University of Trento)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the gendered relation between migrant houses, kinship and different temporalities from the perspective of Indian middle class narratives of transnational mobility.

Paper long abstract:

The way in which people inhabit domestic space is shaped by personal and collective histories, and by how these histories are retrieved in the present. Through house internal disposition people try to evoke - or to silence - certain fragments of their past and, in the process, they frame their identities in continuity or opposition to their ancestors. Yet, the role of houses in people historical and present trajectories of social mobility, and the relation between memory and material culture in the organisation of domestic space, have received scant attention in social sciences. Drawing from ethnographic research conducted with Malayali migrants in Kerala, Italy and UK this paper explores how memories of middle-class mobility shape people's understanding of the ancestral house and of the latter's relation with contemporary dwellings. The relation between house architecture, consumption and identity in past and present houses will be discussed by also tracing how certain expressions of past house material and relational culture are claimed to be unsuitable for present forms of middle-class housing. The paper will argue how, rather than being exclusively considered as a space of protection and healing with respect to history of displacement, ancestral houses can also come to be framed as spaces that can inhibit collective transformations. The analysis suggests how different conceptualisations of the relation between history, houses and diaspora vary across gender and generational difference, with male migrants being more openly critical towards the illam while preserving more conservative attitudes towards the present organization of domestic spaces in the diaspora.

Panel Mig03
Temporalities, migration and home: comparative perspectives