Paolo Boccagni Lecture
26 August 2019
Why "home" matters the most for people on the move
A public lecture by Paolo Boccagni, Associate Professor, Sociology, University of Trento, Italy and 2019 UWA Institute of Advanced Studies Visiting Fellow.
All across social sciences and humanities, "home" has emerged as a unique research topic, despite its inherent ambiguity, as it bridges a variety of divides - public vs private, material vs immaterial, descriptive vs prescriptive, "us" vs "them". However, under conditions of displacement and large-scale migration home is no more what it used to be. From an apparently natural background to people's lives, it turns into something to be achieved, or recovered, from scratch. Struggling for an adequate and ideally better home, successfully or not, is a process that irremediably parallels migrant life trajectories. Likewise, retaining some aspects of all that used to stand for home, while adapting to the views, emotions and practices associated with home in the countries of destination, is critical to migrant and refugee integration over time. Whether for practical purposes or in a more existential sense, coping with home anew is part and parcel of the migrant condition. Parallel to that, home - as a set of emplaced relationships and emotions, not just a place - is a key analytical tool for researching migrant trajectories and the attendant social transformations. Based on an original sociological understanding of home, and on the European Research Council HOMInG project, this lecture invites you to appreciate the significance of home for displaced and migrant people, as an often unaccomplished experience and as a balancing act between past, present and future. The methodological implications and the policy relevance of research on home and migration will also be discussed, against the backdrop of “homing” as a universal and often unmet human need.
Paolo Boccagni is an associate professor in Sociology at the University of Trento, Italy. His main areas of expertise are international migration, transnationalism, social welfare, care, diversity and home. His current research is on home-making and home-feeling processes, as a critical question for the everyday negotiation of boundaries between native and foreign-born populations. As the Principal Investigator of the European Research Council Starting Grant project HOMInG and of MIUR (Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca) HOASI (Home and Asylum Seekers in Italy), Paolo is leading a team of seven postdoctoral researcher fellows, doing multi-sited fieldwork on the experience of home among migrants and refugees in nine different countries. Based on these large-scale collaborative projects, Paolo is elaborating on "homing" as a lifelong set of processes through which individuals and groups try to make themselves at home. In recent years he has also done fieldwork on the ways of framing and approaching immigrant and refugee clients among social workers; on the lived experience and the sense of home of international students; on the built environment, material cultures and thresholds of domesticity in refugee reception initiatives. Paolo has published in over 30 international peer-reviewed journals in migration studies, diversity, housing, social policy and research methods. Recent publications include Migration and the Search for Home. Mapping Domestic Space in Migrants’ Everyday Lives (Palgrave, 2017) and the articles “Aspirations and the subjective future of migration” (Comparative Migration Studies, 2017), “At home in home care: Contents and boundaries of the 'domestic' among immigrant live-in workers in Italy” (Housing Studies, 2018), "Ambivalence and the social processes of immigrant inclusion" (with P. Kivisto, International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 2019).