Theory of Migration and Cultural Constructions of Home


Defining the place called home has proven to be a challenge for many since it is highly subjective amongst individuals. Home is not merely the physical space occupied by the family members; it is a feeling. A mental and deep emotional connection of the physical space to the experiences and memories tied to the thought of home (Douglas). These are largely formed during the childhood years and needless to say, these remain to be a part of our lives forever more. Even with the creeping need to change areas of residence due to the dynamic nature of our lives today, to a large extent the place we found ourselves in the earliest days of our lives will almost always be home.

Socially, the idea of home puts people in recognizable settings by associating them with certain social classes, certain religions, education levels and interests. Spatial or the geographic setting of home is the most outward. This usually refers to the city, town or area of residence. This is the kind of reference most people get when the term home is mentioned but there is a lot more to home than just the geographic location. However, this is relatable in circumstances whereby people are forcibly evicted not only from their homes but also from their locality. It can be argued that there lacks certainty of the perseverance of the natural settings of the so called home environs and the fact that boundaries can be shifted if and when need arises. However, forceful eviction from one’s habitual place of residence is guaranteed to trigger the feeling of loss or oppression since it was not their call to move to a new area of residence. The fact that the shift from home is forced draws more conviction to the affected persons that they deserved to remain there. This is the case for refugees. Many being victims of civil wars, they are forced to run off to areas that are more peaceful and with access to conditions close to those they had in their homes before trouble erupted (UNHCR). Such individuals are forced to start life afresh against their will and intention. Adjusting to the life of being in makeshift structures or even if lucky to be provided with permanent areas of residence, is a challenge. This is because they have to tackle the issue of cultural adjustment in terms of language, religion, dressing and also the way of life. Such people never really get over the fact that they shall not return to their ancestral land and they stay alert to hear any opportunity for the return to their ancestral land. Inasmuch as they have the physical migration to what can be referred to as their new homes, their hearts will always remain in their ancestral land from which they were evicted (Kabachnik, Regulska and Mitchnek).

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Scientifically speaking, there is no connection between people and places. Even culture does not come naturally, it is acquired over time. Similarly, the emotional connection that people and their spatial homes develops over time. It is the repetition of daily practices over time that results to the deep connection. Over time, the achievements made, be it in terms of buildings and investments or simply career development. The milestones achieved from the inception of the unit called home create deep emotional connection that takes time to break off. As a matter of fact some of these ties cannot be broken however much time they put into forgetting their past and moving on. Massey(Massey), suggests that human beings understand space as a product of correlation. One that is constantly under construction that acquires meaning through the interaction of people with their places. This goes to show that home is not just a place, it is a journey through which the meaning is discovered and deep ties are made making it the epicenter of the entire universe.

The common misconception of home being the house you dwelt in arises from the fact that the house is the unit whereby the experiences were lived and relationships developed. Buildings have been said to bear the capacity to hold memories and therefore even with the thought of home being a culmination of the spatial locality and the specific place of residence, the latter tends to have more emotional affiliation with the individuals. Refugees have hence been known to tag along certain items that serve as a reminder of the place they called home. Some have persistently held onto their title deeds or keys to their houses perhaps to give themselves the hope that they shall return some day or for the mere solace of holding their memories close in the middle of the most uncertain of circumstances. Moving to start new lives, refugees like most other people attempt to recreate or come up with the closest imitation to what they had really known home to be. This could be spatial or in aspects close to what their house was. Women have particularly been shown to hold on to the idea of home as opposed to their male counterparts that would take a relatively  shorter time to adjust and get going with a new way of life. They tend to rearrange furniture in the same design that home was and attempt to purchase household items that are close to what was in their homes. This shows just how much effect the place called home has on us psychologically (Koser). Children are not left behind in the process of realignment. As a matter of fact, they suffer the kind of trauma they are at risk of tagging along with for the rest of their lives. Case in time are the children that are displaced from their homes during times of political unrest and are of age such that they already had their interaction with the environment and had formed unique likings of certain places and occurrences. Such children will always struggle to relive their old experiences. They could blame their parents for withdrawing them from their favorite playgrounds, taking away their friends or even changing schools. These fail to understand the intricacies of the surrounding occurrences hence may never get over the psychological trauma. They find trouble adjusting to the new home environment and it is not uncommon for such individuals to carry along certain psychological disturbances all along their lives. In future, such always try to go back to the drawing board in search of answers and to probably finish off the adventure they believe deserved to end and in a particularly remarkable way.

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In conclusion, home is a space that is dear to us all in our hearts. It is more than just the locality and the building of residence, rather it is a journey of events; constantly dynamic and albeit challenging at times, it is absolutely rewarding. With this in mind, it is possible to understand the struggle faced by refugees in their quest to adjust to new home environments. Home is almost irreplaceable but over time, with a focused mindset, it is indeed possible to adjust to new environment.

Douglas, M. “The idea of home: A kind of space.” 1991.

Kabachnik, P, J Regulska and B Mitchnek. “Where and when is home?” Journal of Refugee (2010): 315-336.

Koser, K. New Approaches to Migration? Transnational Communities and the Transformation of Home. London, 2002.

Massey, D. For Space. London, 2005.

UNHCR. The State of the World’s Refugees: Human Displacement in the New. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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