Voluntary migrants’ experiences of not being-at-home in the world
In my academic research I describe (and illustrate with personal stories) a process of migration that has not been recognised until now. I conceptualise this process as ‘existential migration’. Unlike economic migration, simple wanderlust, exile, or variations of forced migration, ‘existential migration’ is conceived as a chosen attempt to express something fundamental about existence by leaving one’s homeland and becoming a foreigner.
This concept arose from interviews with voluntary migrants from around the world now living in London. The study generated impressively consistent themes such as the importance of trying to fulfil individual potentials, the importance of freedom and independence, openness to experiences of the mystery of life, and the valuing of difference and foreignness as a stimulus to personal awareness and broadening perspectives.
Among this population there is a marked preference for the strange and foreign over the familiar or conventional routines. As well as the new concept of existential migration, the research proposes a novel definition of home as interaction; that the ‘feeling of home’ arises from specific interactions with our surroundings that could potentially occur anywhere, at any time. This is in contrast to the usual definition of home as geographical place.
The new concept also challenges our usual definitions of being at home, the foreign, belonging, and homelessness. The insights gained from this new concept elaborate our existing understanding of migration in exciting ways.
Existential migration enables us to reformulate the psychological underpinnings of migration studies, cultural anthropology, tourism studies, cross-cultural training, refugee studies, and psychotherapy. The research presents its subject matter in a clear and evocative way, emphasising the poignancy of the topic. It culminates with a caution that there may be more profound psychological consequences from increasing world globalisation than is currently acknowledged. In fact we may be entering an age of 'global homelessness' . Dr Madison offers skype sessions, seminars and workshops to help participants (clients, coaching and mental health professionals, NGO field workers) explore these experiences for their own personal welfare and for their professional development when working with displaced peoples or migrants.
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I, Greg Madison, am the author of this article and the associated linked articles and I release its contents under the terms of GNU Free Documentation licence, Version 1.2 and later.
The End of Belonging
by Greg A Madison, PhD.