EASA2018: Staying, Moving, Settling

(P155)
Houses and domestic space in the diaspora: materiality, senses and temporalities in migrants' dwellings
Location SO-F289
Date and Start Time 16 Aug, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

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

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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.

'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.

Homes of displacement, emplacement and belonging.

Author: Marta Vilar Rosales (Instituto de Ciências Sociais) email
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Short abstract

the paper explores the configurations of present-day homes of migrant families in diverse urban contexts. It examines modalities of dwelling, materiality and domestic consumption in order to discuss strategies of belonging and positioning in different time, economic and political frames.

Long abstract

Places of dwelling and shelter, houses have always played other significant social tasks which defy the borders between the private and the public both in local and translocal contexts. The processes of home making, i.e. transforming houses into homes, are multifaceted and complex since they imply the accommodation of different logics that operate at various levels: emplacement, displacement, belonging, circulation, stasis, empowerment, positioning, identity making, cultural production and reproduction. Based on ethnographic materials collected in five different urban contexts (Lisbon, Porto, Rio de Janeiro Sao Paulo, and Toronto) this paper aims at discussing the configurations of present-day homes of a restrict group of migrant families, trough the exploration of new and ancient modalities of dwelling, material culture and domestic consumption, ritualized practices and management of memories and patrimonies. More specifically, and based on a comparative analysis of the paper will explore: how diverse movement experiences, marked by different political, economic and time frames, shape homes and design borders between private and public spheres; the importance of home in the management of diverse (e.g. gender, class) belonging and placement strategies; the material resources used in home making, and how these contribute to unfold ongoing everyday and structural transformations that affect the families migrant experiences.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.