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Constructing a Home

Heimat as an Expression of Privilege, Belonging, Exclusion and Identity

Walter Leimgruber

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Walter Leimgruber, Irene Götz(Hg.), Johannes Moser(Hg.), Alexa Färber(Hg.), Ina Merkel(Hg.), Friedemann Schmoll(Hg.), Nevena Škrbic Alempijevic(Hg.), Constructing a Home (2019), Waxmann Verlag, 48159 Münster, ISSN: 2511-2473, 2019 #1, S.142

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Beschreibung / Abstract

The German term Heimat originally meant tangible things, such as a house, property and related rights. Those who did not have them, often had to leave their place of origin and earn their livelihood in an itinerant way. A romanticized image of home originated with the arrival of the Romantic period and industrialization, which brought more and more people to places far from their areas of origin. The nation states offered a new form of home (Heimat) to people who possessed the necessary emblematic qualities, such as a common language and history: Belonging to a national community. The workers, often portrayed as “rootless fellows,” sought their homeland in their solidarity and achieved better protection and social integration with the development of the welfare state. After the Second World War, society was, therefore, more inclusive than ever, and many could fulfill their dream of belonging. At the same time, an increasing number of people were migrating to other countries to make a living. They often suffered from homesickness or experienced feelings of fragmentation between their new center of life and their place of origin. Today, large parts of society are ‘migrantized,’ in the sense of alienation from their original feelings of belonging, feel challenged by social developments with their changing images of role, generation, gender and family, their demographic turmoil, and their challenges concerning mobilities, identities, environment and labor market. After a period of increasing prosperity and the expansion of the welfare state, they see their social position as endangered. They seek a Heimat that has never existed like this in reality and see it as something past and not a goal to strive for.

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