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BEING AT HOME: Space for Belonging in a London Caff

By : Suzanne M. Hall

This paper relates migration and home through the experiences of belonging negotiated by both newcomers and established residents in a South London caff. My account emerges out of an ethnographic exploration of Nick's Caff, a small meeting place off a multi-ethnic, inner city Street. Urban change and social diversity are exemplified in the Walworth Road: a place from which one can hear the chimes of Big Ben and catch glimpses of the London Eye, but which remains curiously detached from the image of a prestigious city; where remnants of white working-class culture juxtapose with a variety of cultures brought from across the globalising world; and where emergent cultures are forged across the difficulties and possibilities of cultural difference. Nick's Caff situates the day-to-day and face-to-face experiences of belonging within a shared space in the contemporary city. This paper explores how different individuals reconstitute conventional understandings of 'home' and 'family' through inhabiting their regular tables in the Caff. I expand on 'belonging' as a mode of social interaction through three key ideas: social space, practice and sociability. I analyse the social and spatial dimensions of everyday interactions in the Caff, and examine whether intermingling within the Caff produces alternative understandings of belonging, beyond the binaries of insider/outsider or local/foreigner.
Keywords : Belonging, Shared Space, Practice, Sociability.

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