Encountering others: modes of being-at-home in Estonian-Finnish transnational space
Pihla Maria Siim
(University of Tartu)
Paper short abstract:
The paper focuses on the ways Estonians living or working in Finland narrate their modes of being-at-home in a place and discuss their future plans. Comparison allows to construct and make sense of belonging in relation to homeland, to current place of residence, and to different others.
Paper long abstract:
Drawing on fieldwork material gathered during 2013-2018 among Estonian families moving between Estonia and Finland, I explore the ways different family members narrate their belonging, modes of being-at-home in a place, and plans regarding the future. I pay attention to the ways comparison is used to construct and make sense of belonging in relation to homeland, to places where people currently reside, and to different others. Firstly, I analyse the ways interviewees narrate belonging to their current place of residence. This is partly done by comparing themselves to other groups residing in Finland. On one hand, interviewees have distinguished themselves from other migrant groups, stressing the cultural closeness of Estonians to Finns and cherishing an image of themselves as good or well-deserving immigrants. On the other hand, there are hierarchies and inequalities also among the group of Estonians themselves. Secondly, I take a look at the nuanced relationship interviewees have to Estonia and to differences they have pointed out between Estonian and Finnish societies and cultures. While reflecting modes of being-at-home in a place and talking about their plans for the future, interviewees also position themselves vis-à-vis dominant attitudes and discourses in Estonia, dismantling their own and others' understanding of their relationship to place(s). Some have felt offended about the discourses related to "convenience migrants", and they do feel that the possible return to Estonia would entail challenges in both emotional and practical terms.
Comparison as social and cultural practice