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22 April 2022
Unpacking the migrant / non-migrant relation: Key lessons from Ecuador and Italy
Paolo Boccagni, University of Trento
How does the relation between migrants and (so-called) non-migrants evolve over time? In a historical period of unprecedented infrastructures for migrants' transnational connections, the risk exists to overstate migrants' engagement in their communities of origin, and neglect the gaps emerging in space and time between movers and stayers. As migrants realize upon return, the ‘normality’ of life in their hometowns is not fundamentally questioned by migration, unless after especially critical events. The ordinary ways to imagine, perceive and use ‘remittance houses’ are most revealing of these modes of differentiation and dissimilation. By revisiting my cumulative fieldwork between Ecuador and Europe, I argue for a less exceptionalistic understanding of migration, inspired by the changing views and practices of home among my participants. Across migrants’ communities of origin, remittances keep making a difference, when available. Migrant houses keep standing out in the surrounding built environment. However, in most other respects, everyday life ‘back home’ is more a matter of business-as-usual than most migration scholars may admit. Many keep dwelling there, some others here, but very few in the alluring, ambiguous, and ultimately ephemeral space of the here-and-there. Paolo Boccagni, University of Trento