Jacob Adam Black Bessen
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationToronto, U. of
Grant numberGr. 10209
Approve DateOctober 7, 2021
Project TitleBessen, Jacob (Toronto, U. of) "Giving a House to a Stranger: The Transformation of the Domus and the Recreation of a Region"
This project examines the intersection of rural abandonment and trans-Mediterranean migration in the town of Camini through the history and transformation of houses. In Calabria, family houses that have been passed down from generation to generation are left empty as young people move North in pursuit of employment and better futures. Migrants, from Africa and the Middle East, have pursued similar journeys, taking the dangerous central Mediterranean migration route to Europe. Aiming to play one development against the other, grassroots projects have secured the rights to abandoned houses and funds from federal and global humanitarian agencies to resettle migrants locally. Against these demographic changes, I ask: how does the gift of a house to a stranger reorder social relations? How do these houses reify relations of hierarchy, equality, and mutuality and mediate divisions of sameness and otherness? Rejecting the framework of a “migrant crisis” that decontextualizes and dehistoricizes mobility and secular frameworks that limit the scope of ethnographic phenomena to an immanent domain, this project employs anthropological thinking on the social life of houses, forms of relatedness, and hospitality to understand human mobility and social creativity occurring in Catholic Southern Italy.