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Migrant male youth home-making in Ireland

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - YOUTH-HOME (Migrant male youth home-making in Ireland)

Reporting period: 2019-06-15 to 2021-06-14

Feeling at home and home-making practices for migrants are vital to enhance their sense of belonging to the societies they live in. Lack of belonging is highlighted as a major issue on the path towards integration of migrants. Within this discourse, male migrants are constantly depicted as ‘problematic figures’ who pose a threat to the fabric of European societies. Such image of male migrant has been reflected in their experiences and feelings of home being neglected, not only in the national and European migration policy but also within the scholarship in migration and home studies.
Youth Home aimed to provide an understanding of what ‘home’ means for young male migrants from two groups of international students and refugees. The reason for this comparison was to analyse the impact of migratory pathways on an understanding of home, a gap in the knowledge about these two groups of male migrants. This focused ethnography on home-making practices used a multi-stage collaborative methodology within domestic spaces and urban areas using: walking methods, ‘taste of home’ method, photography and visual analysis, action research and narrative analysis.

The overall objectives were:
RO1. To critically evaluate how young male migrants’ integration needs are represented within social and political discourses (at local, national and EU levels) about young refugees and international students.
RO2. To analyse everyday domestic home-making practices, identities and understandings, using the intersectionality framework and focusing on gendered and aged experiences of migrants.
RO3. To assess the impact of young male migrants’ everyday (re)construction of ‘home’ in domestic spheres on their urban identifications in Irish society in order to learn how to create and facilitate urban belonging.
RO4. To produce knowledge for practitioner and policy-maker audiences at European level to enhance their understanding and appreciation of how to facilitate urban belonging among young male migrants.

Youth Home reveals new findings into understanding of home among young male migrants within two spaces (domestic and urban): A. material composition of domestic spaces are extremely important for young men’s sense of home such as using artefacts, creation of food, decorations and sharing objects, organising and practising religious and cultural rituals. B. the ethnography in urban spaces that the sense of belonging to the city remains provisional and shallow. Home-making practices in urban spaces was largely through solitary activities and lifestyles that made making a home ‘here and now’ difficult and a project that belonged to a future time. The importance of structural (im)possibilities in Irish society impact the sense of belonging and created a sense of isolation from the mainstream Irish population. We conclude that the role of borders and migration regimes, although not visible, are felt and experienced on everyday basis by these migrants.
The project started on 15th June 2019 and it ended on 28th October 2020. Much of the fieldwork happened between October 2019 and February 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic. Within this period 33 interviews with 14 participants took place. Each participant was interviewed at least twice. Over 120 photos were produced by participants from their domestic and urban spaces. The main results that were achieved have been turned into several publications, of which some are accepted, and some in preparation for publication. The interviews and the research carried out on home, belonging, identity and migration is the basis of a book manuscript proposal, entitled Home and Migration: Intersectional power relations and migration regimes, currently under review with Springer, as an open access volume.
Theoretical contribution: Youth Home analysed the interrelation of domestic space, urban areas and the notion of home among young migrant men. The domestic sphere, although deemed to be a female space, played an important part in the sense of home-making of these men. Dynamics of domestic spaces showed their use and appropriation of space as important aspects of their identities. The marginality and liminality they experienced in the Irish society, was reflected in their use of public space in a minimal way. Their creation of friendship networks exists, but in a limited fashion, which leaves migrants to resort to their transnational networks (friends and family) to feel belonging and included. This limits their feelings of embeddedness and regrounding in Ireland. As such for them the notion of home takes place mainly within their domestic spaces (in an individual way); in urban spaces but places where not much interaction is required such as parks and natural settings, streets and shopping; Imagined and virtual spaces, which are mainly in a place that are not defined such as countries they aim to migrate to in future. Much of the home-making is mostly imagined and framed in relation to their future families, assuming an active and hegemonic masculine role, being in a heterosexual relationship and becoming a father. Finally, spatial security was theorised (forthcoming in the book and a peer reviewed paper) as a state of belonging and the structures and regimes of migration and control within the society that limits migrants’ imaginations and actions. Each one of the produced publications, offers an under studied angle into home-making among young male migrants: A. The dynamics of domestic space intersected with masculine identity showed how material belongings in the lives of migrant men is an indicator of their sense of belonging and embeddedness. B. Young migrant men’s use of urban spaces was not linked much to the sense of belonging to the city: their choice of the activities and spaces they used was more indicating their loneliness and sense of exclusion from the city. C. We developed the notion of ‘spatial belonging’ to describe and analyse the existing structural and intersectional impossibilities in migrants’ lives that limit their practices as well as imaginations about home.
Methodological contribution: Youth Home’s detailed and focused qualitative data that was ‘co-produced’ with participants, in different stages, not only depicted ‘how’ they make home, but also expanded the methods through which we can gain insight into migrants’ lives. Two new methods that were developed in this research walking methods combined with visual methods, used biographical methods. The paper discusses how walking methodology as a collaborative practice illuminating migrants’ movements within a city, offering a different method of mapping the urban space through the eyes and movements of migrants. The other innovative method was the importance of putting in practice the experience of co-existence and co-practice by ‘tasting home’ practice.
Some public impact has been achieved through the course of the fellowship by attracting children to think about home, urban belonging and home-making through an art practices during the Cork Discover (Nov 19). The website includs images, maps and interview extracts to depict the everyday practices of home-making by these migrants. A paper is being publishd in lay terms in an e-magazine (ViewFinder) Nov 20. A policy report has been prepared and will be distributed to Cork TDs (some of whom were contacted throughout the project to address the case of two of the refugee participants).
'City of Cork' taken by Oorjit one of the participants