Imaginaries of Home: Somali Migrant Experiences of Identity and Belonging in South Africa
Scholars of transnational migration have, over the last three decades, successfully demonstrated the numerous ways in which migrants maintain connections to their homelands while simultaneously becoming embedded in their new places of residence (Glick Schiller 2003; Itzigsohn 2000). Owing to the cross-disciplinary application of the transnational optic, scholars have proceeded to document transnational connections, processes and activities in a range of arenas. Religion, however, has only quite recently been brought into studies of transnational migration, despite the fact that most religious communities, both imagined and real, are global and transnational in nature.
Contemporary migrants use religion to stay connected to the places they leave behind and to forge new forms of transnational belonging (Carnes and Yang 2004; Levitt, Lucken and Barnett 2011). Nina Glick-Schiller for example, has argued that “religion provides migrants with a simultaneously local and transnational mode of incorporation that may configure them not as ethnics but as citizens of both their locality of settlement and of the world” (2009:126). I will argue that Somali Muslims in postcolonial South Africa variously forge forms of transcendental locality that reform understandings and articulations of what constitutes home.