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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The meaning of home : untold stories of people from Dadaab Refugee Camp studying at Canadian postsecondary institutions Khan, Anjum


The movement from one’s homeland, especially in cases of forced migration and displacement, is often accompanied by intense feelings of unexpected dislocation along with the demands of adjusting to an entirely new environment. The meaning of home is complex for all of us, however for people in refugee situations it is further complicated through its multiple and contradictory meanings. This research considers the meaning of home and how this may shift once people leave the turbulent setting of refugee camps and resettle in new places. This study employed narrative inquiry with five participants who lived in Dadaab Refugee Camp, Kenya and came to Vancouver, Canada for post-secondary education. Although each participant’s meaning of home is distinct and unique, analysis of the data revealed three shared themes: 1) Permanency or fluidity of home is constructed as related to traditions and lived experiences. 2) Home is understood in terms of peace, safety/security and freedom. 3) Home and ancestral place are not mutually exclusive. Decolonization theory from the perspectives of Frantz Fanon and Paulo Freire was used within the context of forced displacement as the theoretical framework. Decolonization theory is important and necessary at different levels of migration governance to establish non-exploitative relationships instead of replicating structures of oppression. Decolonization is not an end point but a life-long process requiring constant dismantling and re-creation. We don’t always get to decide where we call home, and many times it is others who decide. Our feet may leave a place, but not always our hearts. Even though we often don’t think about it, home is an important concept that is associated with the sense of belonging, not only in physical terms, but also in terms of security, comfort, inspiration, hope and peace. Each person’s meaning of home will be unique and connected to different experiences that are embedded within their heart, mind and lived practice. No matter how one defines their home, in the end, it also very much defines us.

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