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'Existential migration': voluntary migrants' experiences of not being-at-home in the world

Madison, Gregory (2005). 'Existential migration': voluntary migrants' experiences of not being-at-home in the world. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


In this thesis I describe a process of migration that has not previously been formulated, or recognised. I conceptualise this process as ‘existential migration’. Unlike economic migration, simple wanderlust, exile, or variations of forced migration, ‘existential migration' is conceived as a chosen attempt to express or address fundamental issues of existence by leaving one's homeland and becoming a foreigner. This thesis arose from, and is structured around, phenomenological interviews with twenty voluntary migrants. These interviews generate themes and sensitivities that arise as definitive of this type of migration. Themes include notions of an interactive self, the importance of pursing individual potentials, the importance of freedom within belonging, openness to experiences of the unheimlich, and the valuing of difference and foreignness as stimulus to personal awareness and broadening perspectives. Among the co-researchers there is a marked preference for the strange over the familiar or conventional. There are also themes indicating the impact of family relationships in decisions to leave home, the meaning of home and not being at home in the world. As well as the new concept of existential migration, the thesis proposes a novel definition of home as a specific experience of self-world interaction. This is in contrast to the usual assumptive definitions of home as place. The thesis also problematises accepted definitions of being at home, the foreign, belonging, and homelessness, by contrasting their ontic and ontological meanings, revealing existential perspectives on our contemporary world. In Part Two, the emerging phenomenological themes are clustered and "crossed" with existing concepts in various disciplines and in existential-phenomenological philosophy, in particular, specific aspects of the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. Laying this phenomenon over existing models and orientations is purposive in my attempts to further elaborate this vestigial concept as a specific type of concept, and to illustrate its contributions to existing literature. Therefore, the emerging sense of existential migration is compared with current multi­ disciplinary thought, highlighting preliminary possibilities for reformulating existing areas within migration studies, cultural anthropology, tourism studies, cross-cultural training, refugee studies, and psychotherapy. In contradistinction to most concepts, 'existential migration' is presented as a process concept, guided by the philosophical work of Eugene Gendlin. Suggestions are made as to how to use such a phenomenologically-derived concept in a phenomenological way. The study also implies that there may be more profound psychological consequences from increasing world globalisation than are currently acknowledged.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Madison, Gregory  Vol. 1.pdf]
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[thumbnail of Madison, Gregory Vol. 3.pdf]
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