The Migrant


Apart from conflicts and environmental disasters, migration to an overwhelming majority of people concerns basic necessities like work, economic sustenance and well-being. This is a manifold and stratified phenomenon that has occurred throughout history with profound material and spatial consequences. For instance, socio-political structures and the architectural milieu have been challenged by the massive resettling of rural populations to cities. This includes international and even regional migration of individuals and whole families relocating in search of financial security and development. The rural-to-urban migration in China and India alone has currently brought hundreds of millions of people from rural communities to big metropolitan cities in the last few decades. Internationally, migration is estimated to have more than tripled since 1960, rising from 77 million to 258 million in 2015 (Migration Policy Institute 2017).  

Domesticity – the objects and practices of domestic spaces – presents a rich terrain to investigate and understand personal negotiations between the past (e.g. origins, roots), the present and the future, as well as, the self and otherness. In this manner, the concept of “[h]ome acts as a cognitive anchor through which individuals order external social reality in terms of space, as well as of time” (Boccagni 2017). It is important to question how migrants by means of domesticity seek to embrace new localities and retain or even reconfigure symbols and ideas of former localities (cf. Dovey 1985, Allen 2008). The mass development of shelters like jhuggi jhopdis’ in India and favelas in Brazil offer examples of how migrant communities spatially and culturally appropriate the new urban context while retaining traditional identities. This has comparisons to the ‘urban villages’ accommodating migrants in European cities, like ‘Chinatowns’ or Turkish and Jewish quarters, and “superdiverse” neighbourhoods like Sint-Jans Molenbeek in Brussels and Peckham in London (Hall 2012).

However, this emphasis should not ignore the migrations that occur outside of the rural-to-urban and global South-to-North dominant framework. This is the case, for instance, of foreign communities in postcolonial contexts that have resulted in unique architectures such as the Kibbutz and the French compound in Algiers’ Cité La Concorde built in 1956. More recently, it is important to question the migration patterns and domestic practices spurred by economic recessions? What about the continuous displacement of people evicted from their homes and the resorting to ‘domesticities of emergency’. For instance, the Cambridge Occupation in Sao Paolo and the makeshift camp Skid Row in Los Angeles. We welcome and look forward to contributions exploring multiple phenomena and counter-tendencies in long term migration. This section of the conference fosters nuanced insights to the process of home-making in migrant households.

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