Home where?
an anthropological study of the sense of home among transnational Sri Lanka immigrants in Darwin

  • Jagath Bandara Pathirage

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    How does the sense of home appear in the context of transnational migration? The aim of this ethnographic thesis is to examine the meaning of home among Sri Lankan immigrants in Darwin, Australia. This thesis explores whether a migrant’s sense of home is reducible to their home country, or if they are able to develop a more expansive and nuanced sense of home that merges home country and host community together? Is there an inevitable friction between the sense of home for these Sri Lanka immigrants and the sense of home between Sri Lanka and Australia?

    Migrants are mobile because their journey is often never finished. Once uprooted by the process of migration, their life is set in motion irrevocably. This thesis shows how this is particularly the case for Sri Lankans immigrants in Darwin, as Darwin is usually a place of transit for many migrants of various backgrounds, and also is a place of re-gathering that can serve as the gateway to the rest of Australia.

    The scholarly literature has described how immigrant communities conceive their sense of home, which is a particular kind of attachment to an entity, real or constructed. However, most of the literature has either stagnated or succumbed to a dualistic framework that perpetuates distinctions between mind and body and the individual and social. Such a framework cannot cover the complete ethnographic and existential dimensions of the sense of home held by transnational migrants, but only represent certain aspects of home as an entity.

    This thesis explored how the sense of home evolved amongst Sri Lankan immigrants in Darwin by using ethnographic methods; two and half years of interviews and observations of individuals, and an immersive engagement with community events, festivals and celebrations. It found the unfolding of relationships between people, place and materiality, occurs through a temporal relation of past, present and future. Following the existential philosophy of Martin Heidegger, this thesis concludes that the concept of home shared amongst these transnational migrants in the Darwin context carried with it an ontological meaning that related to what Heidegger called the existential experience of ‘being-in-the-world’.

    Date of AwardAug 2017
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorRolf Gerritsen (Supervisor)

    Cite this