Homing Heidelberg – a Student Project Exploring Refugee’s Ways of Navigating the City

By Marie Sander, lecturer of the seminar Transcultural Place-Making

How can we understand the idea of ‘home’ in times of migration? Is ‘home’ a place, social ties, family, food, a smell? Can ‘home’ be thought of as plural?

Last summer students in the seminar ‘Transcultural Place-Making: Urban Spaces, Migration and Belonging’ critically engaged with the two rising global phenomena migration and urbanization to find answers on the question of what ‘home’ could mean. Critically engaging with political and subjective positionings of migrants in cities, we discussed migrants’ experiences, participation and shaping in and of urban environments, often also reflecting on our own use of city spaces and our understandings of belonging. Based on these discussions and reflections a group of four students was interested to meet refugees and asylum seekers in Heidelberg to find out about their perspectives on home. After jointly compiling a first tool kit to conduct qualitative urban research with all seminar participants, the four student researchers set out individually to employ semi-structured interviews, participant observation, walk-alongs, photography or mental mapping to capture perspectives and practices of a diverse group whose voices often remain rather unheard. Complementing methods from urban anthropology with a transcultural perspective, the group explored how their research partners felt about their new ways of living in Heidelberg, how they negotiated, (re)created, or maintained their sense of belonging to old and new urban environments.

In four blog posts the student researchers now share their research approaches and intriguing encounters and open our eyes to different experiences of and perspectives on Heidelberg and the emotional turmoil of migrant life.

We are proud to present the first project Making Heidelberg a Home while Longing for a Global City by Magdalena von Drachenfels today. Stay tuned for more in the upcoming weeks!