Call for papers: The Idea of Home symposium

24 Mar 2010

The Idea of Home Call for Papers

We invite submissions for a symposium on the Idea of Home to be held at UNSW on November 1-2, 2010.

The Second World War was the catalyst for the uprooting and displacement of millions of people, leading to the category of the refugee in western legal thought and the perception of exile as a newly modern phenomenon. The loss of home and the mourning of displacement, it has since been argued, became the core of the modern condition. Theodore Adorno, exiled to America during the war years, was to write upon his return to Germany that: “Dwelling, in the proper sense has become impossible”, and that, it is “part of morality not to be at home in one’¢ŠäŒÙs home.” For Adorno, the home could no longer be understood as a place of physical refuge, although exile also taught him that language, rather than spatial territory, was what ultimately constituted a sense of belonging. Since then, the loss of home and the impulse of return have become universal themes of the recent history of migration.

Many scholars in recent decades have begun to refashion older notions of exile, transferring the qualities of marginality, instability and loss into desirable qualities of the postmodern condition, while at the same time asserting the home as a myth. Nomadism and diasporism have become the dominant explanatory modes of existence in a global, deterritorialised, world. The imagination of the utopian home is now more often a virtual one, and even the phenomenon of videoing, or blogging about, one's home space online has transformed the association of privacy into one of projection, instant transportation and mass communication. However as Eva Hoffmann notes, the new postmodern scholarship of home and exile is problematic in that it underestimates the sheer human cost of exile; it also leads to a dangerous devaluing of the importance of actual space and territory in the politics of the dispossessed. Many are still fighting, killing and dying, for soil, and for the right of return to homelands.

This conference thus asks what forms the idea of home have taken since World War Two. We invite papers that historicise the meanings of exile, homelessness and displacement and/or those that explore the relationship between the concept of home as it has been shaped by the refugee and migration experience, and the contrapuntal notion of exile. We also invite consideration of the ideological function the "homeland", as a site of yearning, has played in recent times and places. In some cases, the "phantom homelands" created out of nostalgic longing have also led to real cases of extreme politics.

Further, we do not restrict considerations of home to national space. Scholars have been considering the home as a site of resistance, conformity, or surveillance in relation to the state. The ideas and ideals circulating around the postwar home in cities and suburbia have attracted recent scholarly attention in a diverse range of fields, and led to a new awareness of the role ideas of home have played in shaping the politics, ethics and values of contemporary society. These are some of the ways papers might address, and historicise, the idea of home since the Second World War: the meanings attributed to it, and how time and place have shaped meanings of exile, refuge, community, homeland and belonging in the 20th century.

Proposals should include a title, a 250-word abstract, a one-paragraph biographical note on the speaker and full contact details. They should be addressed no later than 16 July, 2010 to r.balint@unsw.edu.au, or j.kalman@unsw.edu.au.