Dissertation Abstracts

Migrants' houses in the homeland : a case study of the transformation of the rural house in the context of international migration. The village of Marginea, Suceava County, Romania

Author: Jacob (Larionescu), Andra , usharh_jacob.andra@spiruharet.ro
Department: sociology
University: Bucharest University and Bordeaux 2 University (co-supervision), Romania
Supervisor: Poliana Stefanescu, PhD, Professor (Ro); Guy Tapie, PhD, Professor (Fr)
Year of completion: 2012
Language of dissertation: romanian

Keywords: Romania , rural house , traces of the past , traces of migration
Areas of Research: Housing and Built Environment , Migration


The originality of my contribution to the Romanian sociological and anthropological research consist in the analysis of the multidimensional relation between migration and the rural dwelling, emphasizing the understanding of the house as the meeting place of different cultural models. Indeed, the house must be analyzed as a social product, with regard to the social and private life of the family that resides there. Thus, the theoretical frame of my dissertation is based on the interplay between the sociological analysis of the migratory processes and their architectural and material expression. The central question of my research concerns the continuity and the discontinuities - observed with regard to the local traditions - which I found, after the fall of the communist regime, in the houses of Romanian migrants, of rural origin. To answer this question, I chose an anthropological approach to the house, by conducting a qualitative field research in 2009, 2010 and 2011. I noticed that the new houses are hybrid forms, which articulate the local models to the new elements, brought by migration. So, two essential dimensions were introduced into the analysis of the concept of the migrant home: "traces of the past" and "traces of migration". The first dimension refers to the influence of the old patterns, models, practices, etc., while the second dimension indicates the new elements which penetrated the house design, its construction process and exploitation.
As George Duby (1989) noted, the house in general had a slow evolution in the rural world. In Bukovina (the northern region of Romania), the traditional wooden house started with a single room, then two and three rooms. Along with the reorganization of villages imposed by Ceauşescu, the first signs of alienation from the tradition preserved for centuries starts to appear. In the new era of migration (Castles and Miller, 2009), the cleavage becomes more evident, fostered by the emergence of 'the new capitalism' (Moravska, 1999) and Romania's opening to the West. It’s a period of time when diverse individual lifestyles arise, while the traditions of communist modernism are abandoned, becoming “practically irrelevant in the new contexts of individual life and social organization” (Vlăsceanu, 2008: 19-20). International migration led to a lifestyle shift and a new social status, all these being objectified in migrants’ new houses from rural areas. Indeed, building a house in the homeland is one of the migrants’ goals. As the house becomes more a sign of success and social mobility, it attracts a great part of the migrants’ savings and remittances, the new homes contributing to a radical transformation of the rural landscape. Nevertheless, migrants’ homes are «hybrid» products that support "hybrid" lifestyles in which normative structures of the host society are combined with local patterns. This hybrid culture is expressed in Marginea, both at the material level (i.e. house architecture, building systems and interior design) and living practices. However, while "the traces of migration" are more evident at the material level, "the traces of the past" are particularly evident in migrants’ living practices.