Where is my home?

Home, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is a place where a person lives. A home may also be a social unit, a family living together in one building, a house or a flat.

As simple as that? Not quite. When thinking about mobilities and transcultural belongings, “home” becomes a complicated issue that should not be taken for granted.

We understand home as a private space. It is a symbol of order, rootedness, self-identity, happiness and privacy. We see home often as a place that we are attached to as we assume it is shared by loved ones. Therefore, home contains meaningful memories and feelings of warmth and security. The concept of home may have different scales: it may be a place where you lie down and rest, a room, a community, a county, a country, or even a planet.

We have a tendency to think that people are place-bound, and research has shown that we do have emotional attachments and bonds to places. However, researchers have also, already for many years, stressed mobility, not stability, as an essential feature of places. The anthropologist Tim Ingold stresses that life is actually not in places but along the paths between these places. I agree with him.

Mobility and life along paths are also true of the place we call home. Our home exists within certain time and space, in a junctfieldion of possibilities and restrictions. The past home is not automatically our present home, and the present home is not inevitably our future, imagined home. This gives us the idea that home is not necessarily one specific place, but many places, which may simultaneously exist in the past, the present and the future. Common to all is the fact that a home is lived and experienced. Thus, a place will not be a home without actions.

When our Trust team was doing participatory field work in a workshop organised after the Reetu and Lola puppetry performance, Anne Lihavainen, the leader of the workshop, asked the participants what belongs to a home. One girl, maybe 4 or 5 years old, raised her hand and said, “Heart belongs to a home”. She also made a heart sign with her hands. Recently, I saw a similar sign on a wall of a group home for refugee minors: “A home is where your heart is.” This might also imply that our body is actually our only home.

 

The heart of butterflies collage photographed in an art class of a comprehensive school in southern Finland. Photo: Kristiina Korjonen-Kuusipuro.
The heart of butterflies collage photographed in an art class of a comprehensive school in southern Finland. Photo: Kristiina Korjonen-Kuusipuro.

 

References:

Chaitin, J., Linstroth, J.P., Hiller, P.T. 2009. Ethnicity and Belonging: An Overview of a Study of Cuban, Haitian and Guatemalan Immigrants to Florida. Forum: Qualitative Social Research 10(3), 12.

Huttunen, L. 2002. Kotona, maanpaossa, matkalla. Kodin merkitykset maahanmuuttajien omaelämänkerroissa. SKS, Helsinki.

Ingold, T. 2011. Being Alive. Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description. Routledge, Abingdon and New York.

Lewicka, M. 2011. Place attachment: How far have we come in the last 40 years? Journal of Environmental Psychology, 31: 207–230.