The Guests who never returned home... a PhD project by Silke Holmqvist

The project is an emotional geography of the first Turkish, Pakistani and Yugoslavian guest workers and their everyday lives in Danish urban spaces between 1963 and 1983. Combining personal accounts from former guest workers with source material from the Danish National Archives and local city archives the project maps out contested emotional landscapes of their daily whereabouts. Through this approach the project underlines the reciprocity between people and places by emphasizing in what ways the migrant workers’ expectations of a temporary stay in Denmark transformed the materiality of the city and simultaneously reshaped their senses of temporary and permanent belongings.

Initially the Danish society and the migrant workers shared the anticipations of a short term stay in Denmark coursing impermanent solutions in terms of housing, meeting places and social security all the way up to the immigrant reform of 1983. In other words the cities were not ready to permanently house the guests. Consequently the group found alternative urban meeting places and created homes that challenged the conventional housing practices of the period.

Through the years some workers found enduring homes in Denmark with their families. However we have very limited insight into the migrants own distinctive experiences in their early years in Denmark; in what ways where feelings of homeliness practiced and performed? And how did homelessness materializes in the alternative use of the city? By answering these questions the PhD project provides a needed perspective ‘from below’ and informs our understanding of material and emotional affiliations.