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Feeling Homesick?

Interesting article from George Mason’s History News Network on the feeling of homesickness, and its long predicted demise. (HT: John Fea) For over one hundred years pundits have predicted that advancing means of technology, especially in communication, would help to end homesickness. Lately, it has been thought that the pervasiveness (or perniciousness, if you prefer) of franchised chain stores and restaurants have added to the logic used by those who make such predictions. Of course, most first semester college students, military overseas, missionaries, and others relocating for some period of time will attest that homesickness, in varying degrees, is still alive and well. Here is a taste from the article:

Today it is easier to recreate home than ever before.  Brand names, chain stores, computers, and cell phones allow the displaced to live in the midst of images and objects similar to those left behind.  The mass-produced goods and entertainment of multinational companies offer comfort to migrants precisely because they are mass-produced, identical to what they had at home, and much easier to obtain than mother’s home-baked goodies were a century ago.  Here the contradictions of capitalism are on display:  Some fault it for uprooting individuals, destroying all sense of home and place, replacing the distinctive and particular with the identical and the anonymous, the small friendly grocery with the big box store.  Yet capitalism, with its technologies of reproducing, of mass producing, which can be so destructive, also offers familiarity through those very processes.  Because corporate capitalism seeks the broadest possible market, it blankets large parts of the earth with identical tastes, sounds, images.  The corporatized, homogenized landscapes filled with Burger Kings and Walmarts provoke aesthetic nausea in some, but for many on the move, they offer a sense of the known and the familiar.  Chains obliterate all differences, but this is one of their selling points to uprooted migrants.  Perhaps home is where the Walmart is.

Take Ricardo Valencia, who moved from Guadalajara to Pahrump, Nevada in 2005, to support his family in Mexico.  The day after arriving, he thought, “I want to leave! Because I’ve always been really close with my family . . . . But I had to stand it, we had to stand it.”  To cope with his homesickness, he called home and emailed family.  More notably, he visited places that reminded him of home.  Some were chain stores, for in Guadalajara he shopped at Office Depot, Walmart, Sam’s Club.  He visited those stores in Nevada and found in them the “same things, things I had purchased for my children, my wife [in Mexico].”  When lonesome, he’d go to Walmart and buy toys for his children.  “Objects mentally transported me with my family.”

So, does the author think we have this thing beat? Hardly. I think this also has had an effect on our students here at Messiah College, and is something that churches think about when looking to attract new members. Messiah asks how it can make students feel somewhat at home and comfortable during the adjustment to campus. Churches tend to use certain songs because they are comfortable and known. New songs are slowly introduced, but never too many at a time. Those moving from one area to another look for church home that sings the songs they know and enjoy from their previous church. For the authors more secular take, check out the rest here, and feel free to offer your thoughts in the comments below.

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One comment on “Feeling Homesick?

  1. […] in light of my recent post about homesickness, that I just read this article by Joe Palca today (published yesterday on NPR) […]

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