What Home Means to the Nomad

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Olga Brednikova
Olga Tkach

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Abstract

An exploration of the meanings female migrants attribute to the concept of Home, the paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork among female migrant laborers from several post-Soviet republics who live and work in Saint Petersburg. The paper describes their everyday practices of “home production.” Three intersecting levels of understanding the Home may be singled out. In order of spatial extension, these are (1) the Home as a dwelling, (2) the Home as a place of residence, meaning in this case the city of Saint Petersburg, and (3) the home country or “the Home that remained back home.” The study shows that the Home loses its significance as a private space for female migrant laborers. They abandon privacy in favor of integration and economic efficiency. The main features they seek in a home are proximity to the workplace and cheapness. Their home is as mobile and delocalized as the migrants themselves. The life stories of the women interviewed present scenarios of individualization, of liberation from social forms and types of stability that are characteristic of modernity. Female migrant laborers are an un unlikely yet striking example of the postmodern nomadic subject.
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