Where is My Home?

Considerations about return are a persistent dimension of identity work in migrant populations. The question of where and what constitutes ‘home’ for migrants is central to understanding processes of integration in settlement contexts. Simultaneously, where and what constitutes ‘home’ sheds light on motivations for sustained transnational ties, but also on return considerations, ranging from planning and actually returning, to an ongoing myth of future return, or a decision of staying put.

Photo: Holger Detje

Photo: Holger Detje

Reflections about ‘home’ are indicative of individuals’ senses of belonging. Migrants reflections about the possibility of return migration are revealing of where and how these individuals locate ‘home’ in the transnational social field. Sometimes it is ‘here’ sometimes ‘there’, but it can also be in two or more geographic locations. For some ‘home’ is neither here, nor there. This can be experienced either as a problem, or as ambivalence, which can be challenging, but equally a resource to draw on, with a global citizen or cosmopolitan perspective.

‘Home’ is both abstract and fluid, but at the same time concrete, with physical manifestations which are spatially located. These spatial manifestations are anchored in time. ‘Home’ is also always relational: other people are involved. This leads to both emotional and rational dimensions. These are mutually overlapping dimensions, which in different ways affect how and where ‘home’ is located, and how senses of belonging develop.

In semi-structured interviews and focus groups with a total of 75 migrants and descendants from Pakistan and Poland living in Norway, considerations about return were found to be revealing of changing perspectives on home. Despite distinct migration histories, more similarities than differences were found between the two groups, with regard to their reflections about belonging. While ‘home’ may be located – in the imagination and heart, or even in practice – in multiple places, belonging is often associated with ambivalence, among individuals and within families stretched across transnational social fields.

Read more: ‘This is my home’: Pakistani and Polish Migrants’ Return Considerations as Articulations About ‘Home’.

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