GEOG 571
Intelligence Analysis, Cultural Geography, and Homeland Security

9.6 You Can’t Go Back Again


It is clear, then, that home is a messy concept at best: it’s hard to define, and the ways that people experience home sometimes stand in complete opposition to the ideal images of home quietly instilled in us through discourse and social construction. With this in mind, we are left wondering: what can we take from all of this?

First, home is not just a place, but something that people create, experience, live, reflect upon, and modify — and it can be multiple rather than singular (for example, many students make a distinction between ‘school-home’ and ‘home-home’). Second, no matter how far away from the ideal it may be, home — whether it’s something a person has, something they’ve lost, something that has been damaged, or something they want — is meaningful for people at the psychological scale. Third, although some homes come close to our culturally-mediated ideals, many do not, and the reasons for this vary in intensity and form (e.g., apartments offer less permanence than owner-occupied houses, while home structures that are deteriorating are unsafe; one’s sense of home may be unsettled by something as commonly experienced as feeling like one doesn’t fit in with family members, but also by the dangers of domestic violence; the list goes on). Fourth, as we see in popular culture, people are aware that culturally-mediated ideals of home are not only elusive, but also troubled and in some respects mythical.

That home is both fundamental to our everyday lives (witness the ready availability of cliches that we used for the titles for this lesson) and also such a troubled/troubling thing makes it deeply relevant to issues of human security. The readings for this week consider home from opposite experiences: establishing home as a refugee, and returning to home after disaster. In both cases, the authors present the experiences of individuals as factors that should influence policy decisions. In these articles, we see that even in cases where people have highly troubled and unsettled experiences of home, home acts as a strong emotional force that binds, drives, and pierces people’s lives.

Required Reading:

Morrice, S. (2013). Heartache and Hurricane Katrina: Recognizing the influence of emotion in post-disaster return decisions. Area, 45(1): 33-39.

Tete, S. Y. A. (2012). ‘Any place could be home’: Embedding refugees’ voices into displacement resolution and state refugee policy. Geoforum, 43(1), 106-115.

Note: Registered students can access the readings in Canvas by clicking on the Library Resources link.