Conceptualizing the Meaning of Home for Refugees

By Natalia Fadlalla.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Refugees who had lost their original homes many times find themselves lost and detached in new environments. Their natal or lost Home becomes significant for the sense of belonging and the feeling of being grounded that it embodied. Home is the physical manifestation of identity, and to feel comfortable in their new Homes, refugees try to reconstruct or remake their perceived concept of the original home or reproduce some of its qualities, in essence reestablishing a lost grounding and reclaiming identity. That is why it is important to conceptualize the meaning of Home by refugees, and I propose an original framework to look at the concept of Home from four different aspects: material; spatial; emotional; and the imaginative, across which important social processes (habitual or everyday activities) are carried out. 1. Material aspect: provides shelter, security and the physical place for the everyday activities, such as sleep, food preparation, consumption, etc. 2. Spatial aspect is the awareness of the physical dimensions of a Home in terms of space, whether enclosed, or the surrounding landscape. Spatial structure describes the actual space that an individual navigates and occupies through his everyday activities. 3. Emotional aspects are comprised by the sense of attachment, belonging, ownership, as well as the traumas inflicted by the loss of Home or the attempts to acquire the sense of attachment to a new Home. 4. Imaginative aspects are narratives; images or memories and lie in a dimension related to time. These are the memories of a Home whether lost, or changed; the personal narratives of it; as well as the imaginary construct of an ideal Home. These four aspects and the social processes of everyday activities, carried across them, constitute the importance of Home to its inhabitants and the possible pathways that may be engaged to recreate and adapt a new place to include a fragment of the old; which is argued to foster a sense of attachment and integration in the new environment.

Keywords: Concept of Home, Refugees, Remaking Home, Material Aspect of Home, Spatial Aspect of Home, Emotional Aspect of Home, Imaginative Aspect of Home, Framework Defining Home

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.139-150. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 924.016KB).

Natalia Fadlalla

Master's Candidate, Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Alumna of the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, Arlington, VA, USA

Natalia received her Master’s Degree from the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in January 2011. She is an architect, who had received her first Master’s degree from the Department of History and Theory of Architecture at Moscow Architectural Institute in Russia in 1990. She is an experienced international development professional, fluent in Russian, Arabic and English with strong cross-cultural and inter-religious understanding and appreciation. She is interested in researching human social and cultural interactions, activities and behavior and how they are manifested in different spatial and urban settings.