Home and away
“At the core of the concept of diaspora lies the image of a remembered home that stands at a distance both temporally and spatially. This place of origin may be the focus of a sustained ideology of return; it can still figure as a home in the present or be seen as belonging entirely to the past. It may have been left recently or generations ago; it may not exist anymore or be the destination of regular home trips; it may be a locus of nostalgia and nightmares; it may feel welcoming or strange upon return visits or it may never have been that homey in the first place.” Femke Stock, ‘Home and Memory’
The questions ‘Where is home?’ and ‘Where do I belong?’ are important for migrants and later generations of settlers. They are questions about place and location, as well as identity. But they also involve relationships, and the passage of time and memory.
Most migrants intend to return. They expect their period away from home to be temporary. Some eventually settle and make a new life, but they rarely forget the places they came from and often have close links with relatives who remain there. It is quite common for people to return regularly for family visits, and for children to get used to ‘feeling at home’ in two or more places.
© Vernessa and Maggie Milner
Even though most migrants retain memories and tell stories of their homeland across the generations, some never return in person. Some live in exile against their wishes as refugees; others choose not to go back, bringing their families to start a new life.
Second generation migrants can have mixed feelings about where they belong. It is not uncommon to feel you are not accepted anywhere. Connecting up with those in a similar situation from the same background, even if they live in other places, can help create a sense of shared identity. Mobile phones and online social networks make this possible. Being part of a diasporic network of friends and relatives can make you feel you’re accepted and at home.
A journey to the places where parents were born is one that many second generation migrants undertake. Knowing more about where they came from and learning more of the language and culture can help young people establish their own identities. A few reverse the journey made by earlier generations and return to the homeland for good.
Home is the things and places you feel close to; away is represented by things you dislike and do not feel connected to.