Words That Matter: Home



"Home" comes almost in the same breath as "dwelling". The difference is that dwelling seems to imply building (as Heidegger will argue), while home is used more broadly. We speak of being at home - that is a location, but it is also an engagement. Being "at home" means being focussed on making home and inhabiting it. We think about being "away from home", which usually implies travel.

In Kenya, people distinguish between where they live and their home. A person might have a house or flat in Nairobi, and work there most of the time. But that person will likely not say that he or she "lives" there. Home is back in the country or in another city. It involves family and ethnic attachments, familiarity of language and practice. Interestingly, the younger the person is, the more likely he or she is to say that Nairobi is home.

We speak of some people as being "dis-placed" - maybe we should be saying they have been "unhomed".

So, what does "home" mean?