When House is not Home: Young refugees creating home in the city of Brussels

Authors: Shannon Damery*, University of Liege
Topics: Immigration/Transnationalism, Migration, Urban Geography
Keywords: Young people, refugees, asylum seekers, home, housing, public space, urban space
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: Balcony A, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper unravels the complex relationship between refugees and the places in the city of Brussels where they are instructed to live, choose to spend time, and choose to leave. As house and home should not be conflated, this paper focuses on the aspects of ‘home’ that young refugees (aged 15 to 25) find in the public spaces of the city, and how these choices of homemaking may be affected by what is lacking in their housing or shelter (or lack thereof). Based on ethnographic research in temporary living spaces, various organizations, and during art activities and protest marches, this paper treats home as a series of relationships between people and places and the desire for security, belonging, and control. During the transition to adulthood these relationships shift perhaps more dramatically than during any other phase of the life course, and this shift is a key influence on the homemaking young people engage in. Things such as proximity to the city, rules in one’s shelter, living with loved ones, and the ability to be independent were key components in participants’ homemaking. Through the course of fieldwork, it became clear that stable and adequate housing, while essential, is not sufficient in in order for people to feel ‘at home’, and relationships with public spaces helped participants create home outside of their housing.

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