Home—Topia is based on the assumption that various forms of mobility, migration and life on the move have become one of the basic characteristics of today’s world. Moving from place A to place B has become a regular part of our lives. Emigration, forced or voluntary, across national borders or from village to metropolis, is the quintessential experience of our time. The position of a stranger, immigrant, refugee or returnee has thus ceased to be unique. In many ways, these forms of migration are incomparable, and we cannot ignore the disproportion between certain privileges and reasons for leaving our first territory. However, finding ourselves in the position of “already torn away from the old and not yet arrived at the new” can be considered a common experience of the above.
This experience brings with it, among other things, changes in understanding of the notion of home and in the individual perception of oneself and others. We can assume that if we deal with the word home, a certain place automatically comes to our minds. A place we are currently inhabiting or a place we have inhabited in the past, that has its own material form, history and geographical location. We can imagine the details of a room or a building, the environment, or the topography of a landscape. Familiar scents, lighting conditions, repetitive sounds, emotional ties to the place and the people who are connected to it.
The moment we cross the borders of our first territory and leave it, this place acquires a new dimension in our minds. The idea of a place we have left comes into relationship with another, new place. We are beginning to look at something intimately known, of which we were an integral part, from external perspective. We create our own utopian idea of the (first) home. In parallel with its creation, the imaginary building of a new home and the reform of our identity is happening.
In particular, the sensory experience of the home, and the abstract idea built on it, are important aspects for shaping our concept of home and the utopian idea of it. If I tried to define what beingn foreign means to me, I would say that it is the absence of familiar scents.
There is an idea of home as a place of return. According to this idea, home is understood as the soil in which we are rooted, as the physical space to which we are attached, as an integral part of our identity. Home as the starting point of all roads.
However, this notion of home is disturbed the moment we leave our place of origin. The boundaries between home and “elsewhere” are breaking. Perception of home and of one’s own identity is pluralized. Layering identities is becoming a necessity. On the one hand, in this situation we are freed from imaginary boundaries, on the other hand, we lose a stable idea of ourselves and the environment that surrounds us.
Although the personal concept of home as the place of origin, together with the layer of identity that emerges from this “first” home, may gradually change based on new experiences, its core is destined to remain unchanged. The opposite is the so-called building a new home, which we can arbitrarily redefine and modify because we do not know its final form.
Strangers and Homecomers
In his texts Der Fremde and Der Heimkehrer (Stranger and Homecomer), Alfred Schütz outlines two different types of experience of integration into a new society: the experience of strangers and the experience of homecomers. In his reasoning, Schütz partly follows the sociological form (typology) of the stranger, which was defined by Georg Simmel. Simmel does not understand a stranger as someone who wanders, who comes and goes again, but as someone who “comes today and stays tomorrow.”
Strangers try to settle in a local society to which they never belonged. That is why the differences between the new and the old world stand out in their experience. Strangers focus their actions on the project of building a new existence, a new home. The horizon of their experience thus becomes the future. On the contrary, the homecomer returns to his well-known environment after a long time, ideally to his birthplace. He sees home as a place of return. His experience of integration / reintegration into the original society is based on the assumption that he belongs to this society permanently. Therefore, homecomers usually focus their actions on memories. The horizon of their current experience is their past.
In both cases, however, we can speak of a certain utopia of coming home, which is not and will not be possible. Even if the homecomer physically comes back to the place of origin, his return remains incomplete. He himself is so altered by his experience of emigration that it is almost impossible to integrate into the original society as if he had never left. On the contrary, a stranger whose goal is to integrate into a society to which he did not originally belong cannot, despite any efforts, be absolutely cut off from the past and the identity that is attached to it.
Strangers and homecomers are both insiders and outsiders. They are part of a certain society but at the same time they stand outside it. They look at their surrounding from an external perspective.
In my view, however, everyone who has left their first home, their first territory, encounters both types of experience. The stranger and the homecomer are not mutually exclusive, and the horizon of the future meets the horizon of the past. Both horizons are, so to speak, unattainable, and between them is a territory in which we are already separated from the horizon of the past but stay distant from the horizon of the future. We are already torn away from the old and not yet arrived at the new.
Home – Topia focuses on these two horizons and the point at which they meet, as well as on the territory between them.