Homing: An Emerging Conceptual Bridge between Migration Studies and Sociological Theory

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Paolo BOCCAGNI, University of Trento, Trento, Italy
This paper advances a new conceptualization of “homing”, as a connection between migration studies and social theory on belonging, place-making and circulation. I define homing as the aggregate of social practices through which people – including migrants – try to make themselves at home in their life circumstances, and as the moral and emotional economies underpinning them. Homing depicts the ongoing ways in which home is conceived, felt and enacted in the everyday, by individual or collective actors, in interaction with their external environments. As an intransitive verb, homing highlights the processual and biographically evolving constitution of home, rather than essentialising it. Indeed, a critical revisit of the elusive notion of home is the starting point for a homing perspective. While “homing” has often been evoked, metaphorically, out of its original “home” in biology (e.g. in diaspora studies), the development of a consistent theoretical framework about it illuminates three broader debates, drawing on a variety of examples:

i.) the negotiation of belonging, identity and the insider/outsider boundary under circumstances of (super-)diversity, with an emphasis less on abstract claims than on the attendant day-to-day interactions;

ii.) the potential for people to appropriate space, or to feel attached to it and exert control on it, given their resources and the external structure of opportunities – with all of the conflicts between opposing claims;

iii.) the portability and reproducibility of material cultures and everyday life styles – after biographic thresholds such as migration-driven ones – and the relevant enabling or constraining factors, which feeds into the debate on translocality and de-territorialization.

The paper is an invitation to homing as a new category of analysis. It need not lead to “discover” unprecedentedly new social realities, but does provide better coordinates, and a more sophisticated gaze, to make sense of the present and past ones.