ERG SES D 12, Research in Higher Education
A lot have been written to underscore the fact that we now live in transnational moment: the unprecedented movement of people and good across national borders, the global diffusion of cultures and ideas, the notion of super-diversity all attest to this. This reality has unsettled the traditional understanding of concepts such as identity, citizenship and belonging and, has given rise to intense academic debate around these concepts. In this paper, I contribute to this debate by focusing on the experiences of Nordic-based Sub-Saharan African academics as pertains to their conception of home and their home-making practices. My main objective is to show how the transnational aspect of their lives frames the academics’ conceptualizations of home and cultural practices. In doing this, I move from the attributive and claim-making dimensions of identity and focus more on its narrational and performative aspects.
Being traditionally given to cross-border mobility, the mobility experiences of academics have unsurprisingly been of considerable interest to researchers from across social sciences and the humanities. However, much of the research on the subject tends to center on their work/workplace experiences. The argument advanced in this paper is therefore important not only because home is one of the significant sites where broader feelings and narratives of identity and belonging can be grasped (Salih 2003) but also because we cannot properly understand the migrant academics without considering the wider spheres of belonging within which they operate.
Furthermore, because much of the studies on the subject tend to view the academia as a homogeneous and siloed collective whose identities, loyalties, and subjectivities are detached from race, ethnicity and the territorial and institutional frames of the nation-state (Jasper 2000), my focus on the experiences of Nordic-based Sub-Saharan African academics also marks a shift from the in literature since it pays attention to how practices and experiences are structured by cultural and economic hierarchies that characterize every social formation. Adding to this is the need to bring in perspectives from Nordic countries because most of what is known about this subject relates to migrant academics in English speaking countries in the global North and, other countries significant colonial ties.
- What is the academics’ notion of home
- Does home have one or multiple referents
- What kind of places were described as home
- What makes the academics feel at home
- How is the academics’ notion of home reflected in their domestic practices and home spaces
Theoretically, the paper is informed by postcolonial thinking. It centers on the intersection points of geography and human interaction which, when critically interrogated raises issues of history, ethnicity, complex cultural identities and questions of representation. These issues will be addressed through post-structuralist lenses. Furthermore, because identity is mostly made evidence through the narratives of self and performativity (Anthias 2002), the tendency for post-structuralism, especially those influenced by constructionism, to emphasize the unfixity of the subject (Clegg 2008), will also be useful for showing the academics’ narratives and practices as situational and malleable. I used Edward Said’s notion of exile to conceptualize the academics’ positionality and identity as evidenced from their narratives and practices.
Methodology Data for this article came from a study that examined incidences of integration and transnationalism amongst Nordic-based academics of Sub-Saharan African origin. In-depth interviews were conducted with 25 academics in Finland, Sweden and Norway. Of the twenty-five participants, five are females. In terms of rank and field of expertise, the participants came from a wide range of disciplinary traditions and represent the broad spectrum of rank within the academia (ranging from post-docs to full professors). Though the paper draws on narrative tradition to ensure that the participants and their lived experiences are at the center of the analytic frame (MacLure 1993), I equally employed some elements of discourse analysis in order to show how place and connections between places and their constituents (people, actions, experiences) are constructed and represented through language (Gilmartin & Migge 2015). To do this, I applied framework that was suggested by De Cillia et al. (1999), in which I discuss both the content of descriptions and the linguistic strategies that are used by the academics when they talk about home and their home-making practices.
Results Home is conceived as a place of belonging. In this sense, it has both material and discoursive dimensions. In its materiality, the physical home environment provides a secure and bounded space for personal, intimate relationships. As a discoursive phenomenon, home is a symbolic site of claim-making and of negotiation of belonging. Having said this, result indicates that the academics have different views of what it means to feel at home and have different things/situations that make them feel at home. This finding is in accord with that of Duyvendak (2011: 38) who notes that the observed differences should be expected since “to ‘feel at home’ is not a singular feeling but a plural and layered sentiment” Result also shows that the academics have at least two references of home: one being in their country of origin and the other in the host country. As pertains to their home-making practices, though there are observable variances amongst the participants, result shows that as much as possible, the participants employ domesticating practices that reflects their home countries traditions and cultures. This is expecially true with regards to food, religious rituals, entertainment and child-upbringing.
Reference Anthias, F. (2002) ‘Where do I belong? Narrating collective identity and translocational positionality’, Ethnicities, 2 (4), pp. 491-515 Clegg S. (2008) Academic identities under threat? British Educational Research Journal Vol. 34, No. 3, 329–345 De Cillia, R., Reisigl, M., and Wodak, R., 1999. The discursive construction of national identities. Discourse & Society, 10 (2), 149–173. Duyvendak J.W. (2011) The Politics of Home: Belonging and Nostalgia in Europe and the United States. New York: Palgrave Macmillan Jasper, J. M. (2000) Restless Nation: Starting Over in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Gilmartin M. & Migge B. (2015) Home stories: immigrant narratives of place and identity in contemporary Ireland, Journal of Cultural Geography, 32:1, 83-101, DOI: 10.1080/08873631.2014.1000576 MacLure M. (1993) Arguing for Your Self: identity as an organizing principle in teachers' jobs and lives British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 19, No. 4, 311-322 Salih R. (2003) Gender in Transnationalism Home, longing and belonging among Moroccan migrant women London: Routledge
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