The Egyptian communities in Milan: Ideas of home, home-making, and care at the time of COVID-19

Marta Scaglioni, Eslam ElBahlawan


The Egyptian communities in Milan are among the oldest and largest migrant communities in Italy, their history dating back to the 1970s. Following in-depth ethnographic research, this article explores their members’ representations and understandings of home, examining also Egyptian women’s practices and role as driving forces underlying home-making processes. Moving from the Egyptian migrants’ translations of casa, Italian word for “house, home,” the article tries to disentangle the multifaceted meanings attached to the notions of balad (country, hometown, village), bayt (house), and waṭan (nation), which hold different social, political, and religious connotations and reflect different levels of integration in Italy. The research took place during the protracted lockdowns in Italy following the outbreak of the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, and therefore delving into the meanings of “home” has meant unraveling how the pandemic situation has increased the domestic care burden on women and how gender relations have changed under such unprecedented events. This article corroborates the hypothesis that care practices and home-making processes are key sites where society reproduces itself, and that accelerated social and historical transformations make gendered care practices within the home more explicit.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/729928