Purpose – Studies have described how migrants progressively transform extraneous spaces into familiar, meaningful environments, turning them into ‘homes’. However, in some…
Purpose – Studies have described how migrants progressively transform extraneous spaces into familiar, meaningful environments, turning them into ‘homes’. However, in some contexts the opposite process occurs: what once felt like home becomes alien, unrecognizable and extraneous. Building on ethnographic vignettes on the everyday life of immobile young Eritreans, this chapter explores the paradox of ‘not feeling at home’ while being physically there.
Methodology – The chapter builds on three months’ ethnographic fieldwork in Eritrea and extended participant observation among Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, Sudan and Italy from 2012 to 2014.
Findings – I show how the youth, in a pervasive context of migration culture, articulate a sense of belonging towards what they imagine as the ‘outside world’, while being unable to make sense of their lives in their own homeland. Using the notions of ‘estrangement’ and home-unmaking, it is possible to account for the feelings of those living in conditions of protracted crisis and explore the subjective worlds of prospective refugees.
Originality/Value – The chapter’s originality lies in the uniqueness of the ethnographic material and in the innovative approach to the debate on home-making and refugee studies. Instead of considering refugees’ home-making processes in other countries, this chapter analyses the experience of losing home without moving. By using the concept of estrangement, it investigates the manifold meanings of immobility while adding to the theoretical discussion on home-making/unmaking processes. Moreover, it contributes to the empirical investigation of determinants of asylum flows by investigating the case of Eritrea, a major refugee-producing country.