EASA2018: Staying, Moving, Settling

(P155)
Houses and Domestic Space in the Diaspora: Materiality, Senses and Temporalities in Migrants' Dwellings
Location
Date and Start Time [TBD] at [TBD]
Sessions [TBD]

Convenors

  • Ester Gallo (University of Trento) email
  • Henrike Donner (Goldsmiths) email

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Chair Ester Gallo
Discussant Henrike Donner

Short abstract

The panel explores the relation between moving, settling and house making in the diaspora across gender, religion, ethnic, class and generational lines. It analyses the relation between material culture, temporality and history in migrants' domestic places.

Long abstract

While images of stillness arouse when thinking of houses, the material, relational and symbolic significance of domestic space is implicated in a complex way in population movements. Houses are reference point in migrants' home making but their meanings are also transformed and in the diaspora. Houses mirror migrants' search of stability and yet also their dilemmas about the future, tensions in kinship relations, and ambivalent engagement to places. They do not stand only for the 'privacy' of domestic life, but are actively engaged in the challenges posed by political histories and present conflicts. Domestic materiality and temporality constitute a relevant and yet understudied context where to apprehend the intersections between macro-forces (market economy, political histories, gendered migration trends) and micro-practices (consumption, object display, daily spatial routines, and recalling) underpinning migration. We explore the relation between moving, settling and house making among diasporic population, and address the following questions:

• How does diaspora transform the meanings of houses among mobile population?

• What experiences of mobility (or immobility) are recalled, made visible or silenced through domestic space?

• What temporal engagements are disclosed through migrants' material/relational organization of houses?

• What do diasporic houses say about people engagement with wider political histories of displacement and about (trans) national, ethnic or religious belonging?

• To what extent, and how, the social life of houses mirror changes in gender and class relations, and in the related meanings of femininity/masculinity?

We welcome papers addressing these questions through the analysis of different contexts.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

The ever-expanding 'tight house:' dwelling practices of a diasporic Palestinian family in London

Author: Michelle Obeid (University of Manchester) email
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Short abstract

The paper explores the dwelling practices of a Palestinian family in London through tracing the shifting spatiality of their residence. I revisit the notion of the domestic as a private space in this new diasporic context and show how ideas of 'space', 'body' and 'boundaries' were negotiated.

Long abstract

'A tight house can fit 1000 loved ones' was the mantra of a Palestinian family whose members migrated to London in the protracted aftermath of the 2010 Gaza war. During this time, the family started a business, opening a café on top of a basement flat that housed several households at a time. The paper explores the dwelling practices of this family through tracing the shifting spatiality of their residence and the expansion of its interiors to accommodate multiple individuals as well as the business in a bid to recreate 'home'. I revisit the notion of the domestic as a private space in this new diasporic mode of cohabitation and show how ideas of 'space', 'body' and 'boundaries' were negotiated in this new context.

Diaspora Photos, Homes, and Mobilities: 'Chez nous' in Addis, Asmara, Chicago, Mantova, and Toronto

Author: Laura Bisaillon (University of Toronto) email
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Short abstract

How do diaspora Eritreans and Ethiopians make sense of, adapt to, and quietly contest the social organization of their lives as displaced people and forced migrants? I examine how diaspora look at, talk about, and give meaning to photographs in homes and on personal electronic devices.

Long abstract

What do Eritrean and Ethiopian diaspora homes reveal about residents' engagement with political histories and current conditions of displacement? I examine how diaspora give meaning to photos in homes and on personal electronic devices, activated as art, memorial, witness, and testimonial. Contextual interpretation makes visible how people's hopes, concerns, and actions on their own terms nuance and correct ideological accounts, including media framings, of the same. Empirically, I draw on fifteen years experience in the Horn of Africa and from fieldwork in Eritrea where I was insider/outsider. Theoretically, I use McCoy (1995) to explore the "social organization in which individual acts of interpretation are possible and occur," while considering the consequences of such analyses. Like Low (1996, 2003), who avoids reifying the city, I do not reify the photo. Rather, I analyze how diaspora people engage with photos to open up "insights into the linkages of macro-processes with the … fabric of human experience . . ." Disciplinarily, I converse with ideas including humour and the absence of talk as political tactic (Bernal, 2013, 2017); underexplored, embodied consequences of policy (Riggan, 2011); and, relations between the state and citizenry (Mueller, 2016) involving the Horn of Africa and its diaspora. I offer an empirical basis and discuss emic perspectives and invite dialogue about agency, belonging, memory, and the politics of home. It is timely to produce understandings about continuities and discontinuities between now and then in the Horn of Africa and among its diaspora.

Palestinian Diaspora in Chile: everyday practices of Home and Belonging

Author: Kholoud Al Ajarma (Groningen University) email
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Short abstract

This article focuses on the significance of material objects for Palestinians in diaspora in Chile and their collective identity and memory. The loss of the real places of memory necessitates the creation of material representations to restore bonds to a homeland and in retaining cultural identity.

Long abstract

This paper is concerned with the ways in which Palestinians imagine who they are, where they belong, and what different places mean to them. I look at the Palestinian Diaspora community in Chile (both new diaspora community who are Palestinian refugees coming from Iraq in 2008 and an old diaspora that started in the 1900s counting around some 300,000 people). For the Palestinian refugees from Iraq, who have been displaced more than once, how do they use material objects to connect with the concept of home, in relation to house and homeland? Where is 'home' for these refugees? How do they reflect on ideas of home and belonging in their daily lives? How are these notions influenced by the existence of an old well-established diaspora community in Chile? I will discuss these questions taking into consideration that the new diaspora community have never experienced physical 'return' to Palestine. The article explores the significance of material objects to Palestinian diaspora in relation to their collective identity and memory. I argue that the loss of real places requires the development of material representations in order to restore the bonds to one's homeland and to regain cultural identity. I examine how objects of legacy help the Palestinians create a sheltering and nurturing environment.

Public Religion, Private Politics: Displaying Sikhism in Diasporic Houses

Authors: Sara Bonfanti (University of Trento) email
Ester Gallo (University of Trento) email
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Short abstract

Drawing from a comparative analysis of Sikhs in the UK and Italy, we analyze the ostensive ambivalence of domestic material culture in the Sikh diaspora. Which and how home items and decors may reflect different temporalities in Sikh political/religious history and present politics of identity?

Long abstract

Religion is acknowledged as an important source of spiritual and mundane support in migration trajectories. Further, its public role in migrants' demands for recognition and integration in Europe has received growing attention in recent decades. While current debates focus on public domains of religious pluralism (temples, congregation centers, urban spaces or media), little attention is paid to understand how religion inform migrants' domesticity. Drawing from a comparative analysis of Sikhs in the UK and Italy, we analyze the ostensive ambivalence of domestic material culture in the Sikh diaspora. We consider whether home items and decors may reflect different temporalities in Sikh political/religious history and present politics of identity. The analysis traces how different family members - across gender and generational difference - conceive houses as spaces for (re)producing spiritual retrieval and/or for narrating ushered political experiences. We argue that, particularly in Italy, Sikh diasporic homes constitute an important context for the reconfiguration of the political role of migrant religion. While in public settings Sikhs tend to display de-politicized images of Sikhism in order to reassure local opinion and accommodate into the host society, 'private' homes more frequently address Sikh past upheavals and martyrdom. Houses emerge as important sources in the reconfiguration of diasporic identity. Their spatial organization and meanings are shaped by larger socio-economic and political contexts. In turn, the ways in which houses are inhabited voice the possibilities and limits of integration as well as alternative projects of family and collective existence.

Reconfiguring home in older age: British migrant returnees

Author: Katie Walsh (University of Sussex) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores the domestic site of home as a spatial and temporal project and the in/exclusionary geographies of migrant identity making through the home in older age. I focus on research with British migrant returnees.

Long abstract

This paper explores the domestic site of home as a spatial and temporal project and the in/exclusionary geographies of migrant identity making through the home in older age. I focus on research with British migrant returnees involving in-depth repeat interviewing, photo elicitation and attention to domestic material culture. I examine how ageing and some of its associated experiences (e.g. impairment or living alone) may reconfigure the meaning of home in later life. British migrant interviewees discuss their home making in terms of both corporeal experience and in reference to the collective cultures of ageing they encounter and navigate. I adopt critical perspectives on home as an embodied and emotional space, and as a simultaneously domestic and diasporic production through meaningful possessions and practices.

Missing rooms. Gender and generational reconfigurations in the homemaking practices of Eritrean refugees in Rome

Author: Aurora Massa (University of Trento) email
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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.

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.

The Gaza Buildings: Genealogies of Displacement in Urban Beirut

Author: Are John Knudsen (Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI)) email
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Short abstract

ince the mid-1980s, generations of displaced people have sought refuge in the ramshackle Gaza Buildings. Examining the decaying buildings' architectural history, provides a temporal genealogy of reception, place making and emplacement that can inform the study of diasporic space and materiality.

Long abstract

Since the mid-1980s, generations of displaced people have sought refuge in the ramshackle Gaza Buildings, a multi-story hospital complex built by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Damaged during the civil war (1975-90), the buildings have since turned urban heterotopia - squat, refuge and shelter - that otherwise blend in with the run-down Sabra-Shatila neighborhood in Beirut's "misery belt". Forming part of a global landscape of insecure areas, the inhabitants are disconnected from majority society that can serve as a trope for the exclusion of generations of forced migrants and typifies the new domain of "urban refugees" now common throughout the Middle East. The paper charts the buildings' lodgers, landlords, and gatekeepers who respectively rent, lease and control the dilapidated buildings' dark corridors, cramped flats and garbage-strewn stairways. By analyzing the buildings as historical sites of displacement they can been viewed as a parable of the contemporary refugee straining under living conditions seen as inhuman, indeed an insult to humanity (insaniaat). The multi-story buildings can be read a vertical migration history where generations of refugees and migrants have escaped repeated conflict, displacement and destitution. Examining the decaying buildings' architectural history, hence, provides a temporal genealogy of reception, place making and emplacement that can inform the study of diasporic space and materiality.

'Home is were you get the most': Neoliberalism, Middle-class diasporas and NRI home-making in Kolkata, India

Author: Henrike Donner (Goldsmiths) email
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Short abstract

The paper will trace home-making and kin relations amongst Non-Resident Indians, who invested in flats in Kolkata, India. It will trace such transnational domesticities amongst Indo-German migrants.

Long abstract

'Home is were you get the most': Neoliberalism, Middle-class diasporas and NRI home-making in Kolkata, India

The paper will provide an insight into a specific pattern of home-making, namely second homes created in India by Indo-German couples. Recent decades have seen urban restructuring on an unprecedented scale, with new housing catering specifically to the much coveted NRI (non-resident Indian) investors. In Kolkata as elsewhere, a sizeable number such 'investors' have bought flats, many senior citizens who have spent the their working lives in the US and EU countries, and who purchased second homes here in order to spend the winter months.

A sizeable minority are from Germany, with German partners invested in this new home-building project that involves close ties with a partner's natal, often extended family and native city. The paper will trace the commonalities between these modes of home and family remaking, particular ways of making second homes as a class-based project that affects the city more generally, ideas about coupledom, family and belonging, all framed by the way such transnational middle-class lifestyles are implied in specific regimes of care, class-based consumption and kinship patterns and and a deliberate embrace of neoliberal ideology.

Houses, hearths and memories: Food sharing and ambivalent belonging among diaspora Tamil women in Singapore

Author: Ranjana Raghunathan (National University of Singapore) email
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Short abstract

This paper brings an ethnographic focus to the practices of cooking and food sharing in the houses of Tamil diaspora women in Singapore. The processes of food sharing among Tamil women reveal a relationship to the house based on gendered tensions between movement and ambivalent belonging.

Long abstract

This paper brings an ethnographic focus to the practices of cooking and food sharing in the houses of Tamil diaspora women in Singapore. Recipes, tools for preparing food and the visceral experience of cooking, serving and eating are a gateway to diverse articulations of women's sense of cultural identity and underlying ideologies organising social and spatial relations in the multi-cultural and racialised context of Singapore. This paper adopts Carsten and Hugh-Jones (1995) dynamic conceptualisation, the 'house as process', through which the house comes to have a vitality of its own, departing from previous formulations where the notion of the house is static. Carsten and Hugh-Jones establish emphatically the entwinement of processes of kinship and house by demonstrating that the house is constitutive of social relations within and beyond it. The 'house' of Tamil women encompasses multiple temporalities including memories of ancestral mobilities, rhythms of daily living, and intergenerational relations set against the overarching historical arcs of Tamil migration to Singapore since British colonial rule. The focus upon food sharing through an ethnographic lens unravels memories of loss, experiences of alienation, and material artefacts passed through generations. I demonstrate that food sharing is a crucial link for the relationship between the material and the social in the context of migrant cartographies and multiple houses inhabited. The processes of food sharing among Tamil women do not suggest the house as an extension of a person (Bourdieu 1977, Carsten 1995), but reveal a relationship based on gendered tensions between movement and ambivalent belonging.

Managing houses, managing lives - temporary modular homes and migrants' temporary homemaking practices in Stockholm

Author: Mauricio Rogat (Social Anthropology) email
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Short abstract

This paper presents an ethnographic account of how temporalities of management of housing for migrants, and in particular temporary solutions of housing, become entangled with migrants' homemaking practices, and how this relationship creates frictions, tensions and vulnerabilities.

Long abstract

This paper examines the impact of temporary homes on migrants' lives. The research object is the temporary modular homes which are emerging adjacent to more permanent structures in suburban and urban environments in Stockholm. A more overarching aim of my doctoral research project is to examine how temporariness becomes an important temporal dimension in migrants lives and to study how politics using temporary solutions actually materialises. In the wake of the so-called "refugee crisis", housing for the asylum seekers who have been granted permanent or temporary permits of residency, has become an issue due to housing shortages. In March 2016, a coercive law entered into force with the objective of creating an effective and coherent integration system, dividing the dwelling responsibility to all Swedish municipalities. Temporary solutions as modular homes, have then, become a strategy to organise dwelling spaces, which also have come to affect migrants' experiences and practices of making themselves at home. A kind of logistical organisation of dwellings and management of human beings is taking shape, which on the one hand structures the built environment and creates a visible division between temporary and more permanent structures, and on the other and more importantly, creates precarious living conditions for migrants. In this paper, I will present an ethnographic account of how temporalities of management and in particular temporary solutions, become entangled with migrants' homemaking practices, and how this relationship creates frictions, tensions and vulnerabilities.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.