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Global Development Institute

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Conflict, Displacement and Home

The idea of home is often used in displacement research but has rarely been conceptualised and its relevance for understanding experiences of both displacement and emplacement has largely been overlooked.

By ignoring how conflict and displacement shapes people’s sense of home, studies on conflict-induced displacement have largely failed to fully understand meanings and experiences of displacement and the extent to which conditions of displacement change over time. In order to address these limitations, this study unpacks the interplay between conflict, displacement and home. It constructs a new framework for conceptualising home which brings together physical, social, political, cultural and emotional-existential dimensions in order to examine the following four research questions:

  1. To what extent and in which ways can conflict and displacement shape the individual’s sense of home? 
  2. What does home mean for forcibly displaced people and how does a perceived sense of home (or a lack thereof) shape their sense of material and non-material well-being? 
  3. Where is home for those who flee within national borders? 
  4. To what extent, and how, do those who flee following conflict remake home, how do social constraints and individual actions and aspirations interact in the process of remaking home, and to what extent does this process contribute to the alleviation of conditions of displacement? 

This project was led by Dr Luis Eduardo Perez Murcia 

Findings

Drawing on the narratives of seventy-two participants who in the aftermath of violence and human rights abuses fled within Colombia, this study shows that displacement threatens one’s sense of home. It shows how they experienced their loss of home not only as the loss of a material shelter or geographical place but above all as the loss of a social world, a familiar landscape, and an emotional-existential space in which their lives were previously physically, socially, politically, culturally and emotionally-existentially embedded. Indeed, as the research shows, for many, the loss of home signifies a loss of their place in the world. 

Although most of the displaced who took part in this research lost the sense of being at home and continue to search for home, the empirical findings reveal that home is neither entirely fixed nor entirely mobile. Displacement is experienced as a painful journey in which both traumatic and joyful memories from the place left behind interact with the actions of the displaced in the search for home either in their current settlements or elsewhere. Acknowledging that violence and displacement leave an indelible print on hearts and minds, the empirical findings also show that home can be remade on the move and that the process of remaking home can contribute to the alleviation of conditions of displacement. 

This work is being led by Luis Eduardo Perez Murcia as part of his PhD research project carried out at the Global Development Institute.

Impact

Some of the key ideas of this research has been published in a booklet that has been distributed to both academic and non-academic audiences in conferences in Manchester, Poznan, Prague, San Francisco, and Oxford.

A Spanish version will be distributed to research participants, policy makers and representatives of national and international bodies working with internally displaced people in Colombia in the following months.

Papers and conferences

The research findings have been presented in the following international conferences:

112th Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers - Panel Life of the Margins of Home in the 21st Century. San Francisco, California, March 29 – April 2, 2016.

13th IMISCOE Annual Conference on Migration and Development - Panel Migration and Mobility /Forced migration, trafficking and internally displaced. Prague, 30 June – 2 July 2016.

16th annual Conference of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration (IASFM) - Panel Home and space for forced migrants. Poznan, Poland, July 12-15, 2016.

Development Studies Association (DSA) Conference 2016 - Panel: Searching for the everyday normal: continuities, discontinuities and transformation in crises. Oxford, UK, September 12 -14, 2016.  

Blogs, photos and events associated to this research