A large map of the world hangs on the wall next to my dining table. It features numerous coloured pins marking significant places in the lives of friends who visit: blue for upcoming trips, yellow for where they have lived, white for a dream holiday. But it is what red pins signify that is the most difficult to (literally) pin down, yet arguably reveals the most. On this map, red pins mark ‘where is home?’
Born in South Korea, adopted to the United States, having worked at the US-Mexico border, and now living in the UK since 2009, I find it difficult to answer this question because it taps into my life story of migration – of having lived, learned, and loved in different places. In my case, the word juxtaposes memories like running barefoot through Michigan cornfields in warm summery evenings, waking up early to buy fresh produce at a local borderland market called Mata’s, and sharing stories with friends under starry skies in the meadows near Oxford. As these experiences accumulate, they have created within my mind an equally stratified, mixed-up, imagined version of ‘home’ that transcends typical borders.
Yet, ‘home’ not only marks a discrete point of origin where we were born, but also conveys a degree of comfort and identification with a place: Ben Franklin observed that home ‘contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body’. Viewed this way, my life has featured many homes, and will undoubtedly include many more. Therefore, asking ‘where is home?’ invites us to consider how we currently – as well as aspire to – relate with the continually changing mix of people, spaces, and values that surrounds us. Thinking about where and what we call ‘home’ in this way is an invitation I hope we can wholeheartedly accept.
Email this Post
About Will Allen
Will Allen is a researcher with the ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy, and Society and The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, where he uses corpus linguistics to examine relationships among British media, public opinion on immigration, and UK migration policy. You can follow him and his work on Twitter.