Identity and Sense of Belonging in Domestic Spaces of South Asian Minorities in Malta

Final year M.Arch dissertation 2022


This dissertation investigates what it means to be a South-Asian migrant in Malta from the context of domestic spaces, by exploring different narratives on migration and sense of home, and by analysing the different dwellings where such narratives are then inscribed. The act of migration intrinsically transforms the way a person perceives the notion of home and belonging; through the act of moving to a new place, sense of habitus is disturbed, and a new habitus is created in order to cope with a new rhythm of life (Easthope, 2009; Friedmann, 2005). In an age where people are constantly shifting, moving and migrating, identity has also become less rooted and more fluid and hybrid (Easthope, 2009). These changes, along with the different dwellings they own, rent or share, create a shifting dynamic relationship between an individual and their environment.

Therefore, themes within this dissertation explore the different ways people assimilate to their environment, contextualising these changes within the identities of the participants themselves. Through ethnographic fieldwork it is recognised that this context also relies on understanding their identities in terms of being either transient or rooted, based on whether they see a future in Malta or not. The way in which a person envisions their life and future can increase or decrease an individual’s motivations to make their environment a home, or whether it simply acts as a shelter.

This study ultimately aims to shed light on migrant identities, the issues they face, their interpersonal narratives, as well as their relationship to the local built environment. The quality of a dwelling can certainly increase or decrease the quality of life and well-being of individuals, and this dissertation sees the potential of not only providing shelter but providing a home which people can truly make their own, through fantasy and appropriation. Quality housing beyond a shelter is seen as a human right, although inequality in access to such housing is still present amongst people without economic or social means, leading to scenarios where individuals have no choice but to accept and assimilate into their environments.

Keywords: dwelling, home, migration, transient, rooted, assimilation, agency, fantasy
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