Towards a progressive home-making: the ambivalence of migrants’ experience in a multicultural condominium

Abstract

Following the rhetoric of globalisation and hyper-mobility, the ideas of placelessness and detachment from place seem to be the essential features of contemporary cities. This conceals the human necessity to constantly create new senses of home and new home-making practices. Starting from ethnographic research in a multicultural condominium (called Hotel House) in Italy, the paper uses the urban experience of migrants to look at different home-making practices by analysing them as multidimensional (spatial, social and emotional) processes. Firstly, migrants living in Hotel House produce ‘home’ by imbuing domestic spaces with their own memory and meaning and creating public and collective spaces characterised by ‘homely relations’. In both cases, they produce material, emotional and symbolic resources. Secondly, the paper analyses the ‘dark side of home-making’, inasmuch as the social density of the home-making practices in Hotel House’s domestic and public spaces also favours strong forms of social control, particularly relevant for women and young people. Thirdly, the paper analyses how the sense of home sustains a collective intercultural mobilisations against Hotel House’s institutional abandonment and stigmatisation that reveal the threshold-crossing capacity of ‘home’. Home, in conclusion, is not a romanticised, fixed and bounded place to protect. It is a plural and conflictual field of action that can support social exclusion but can also open new interconnections and possibilities of peoples’ empowerment.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The term reterritorialisation, originated by Deleuze and Guattari (1980) and systematised by Raffestin (1984), underlines how actors express themselves in urban space by using and giving meaning to specific ‘territories’.

  2. 2.

    ISTAT data, 2010 (http://demo.istat.it).

  3. 3.

    I conducted 40 interviews with residents (75 %), local shopkeepers (15 %) and holidaymakers (10 %) that work or have their second home at the Hotel House. The people interviewed are 68 % men and 32 % women and come from 10 different countries (mainly from Senegal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Italy and Tunisia).

  4. 4.

    All names are fictitious to preserve privacy and anonymity.

  5. 5.

    The Hotel House’s administration council, a fundamental power place of the condominium, has seen several administrators and councillors come and go over time. Since the mid-2000s, the role of migrants in the council has gradually increased.

  6. 6.

    This percentage is very low considering that in the same period (2009), the majority of migrants living in Italy were women (51.3 %).

  7. 7.

    Before the economic crisis of the late 2000s.

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Cancellieri, A. Towards a progressive home-making: the ambivalence of migrants’ experience in a multicultural condominium. J Hous and the Built Environ 32, 49–61 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10901-015-9489-7

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Keywords

  • Home-making
  • Migrants
  • Domestic space
  • Affective turn
  • Social control
  • Intercultural mobilisation