“The Politics of Home”: A Special Issue of Coils of the Serpent: Journal for the Study of Contemporary Power
Call for Papers
“The Politics of Home”
A Special Issue of
Coils of the Serpent: Journal for the Study of Contemporary Power
Guest Editors: Kristin Aubel and Sarah Heinz (Wien)
The notion of home, while often associated with warmth, security, and personal sanctuary, is inherently intertwined with broader socio-political dynamics. It therefore encompasses more than a physical space, and it is never neutral, private, or simply ‘ours’. It is where inside and outside, private and public, as well as built forms, affective ties, and cultural imaginaries intersect in a politics of home. At their core, such politics of home encapsulate the intricate interplay between individuals, communities, and the broader structures and institutions of power that shape our lived experiences. This special issue seeks to explore the various ways in which ideas and ideals of homes are constructed, contested, and negotiated within the complex tapestry of society, highlighting the pivotal role played by political, cultural, artistic, and historical contexts. It therefore seeks to cover the multiple forms and functions that a politics of home can have, as well as the multiple forms in which literatures, the arts, media, activism, or concrete home-making practices negotiate and grapple with the diverse manifestations of such politics of home and their impact on individuals and communities.
Understanding home through the politics attached to it opens up a discussion about practices, selves, and relationships within, through, and beyond the home. Via objects put into specific places and their use, through activities like decorating, cooking, or playing, as well as through the social relations that these practices create or inhibit, the feelings they elicit, and the memories they amass, home is created, lived, and imagined, enabling the person performing these activities to experience, ‘feel,’ and remember home as a place, as social relations, and as a site for individuality and selfhood. This process can have positive and negative outcomes, it can be liberating and constricting, but it is never static, whole, or fixed. It is related to and produced by the interplay between public and private processes as well as chosen and imposed social relations. In effect, home is always already shaped by the power structures of a given community, because it is produced and re-produced within what Doreen Massey calls the flows of the power geometry between homes and other places (1991: 25).
Accordingly, transdisciplinary research of home has outlined that home is a multidimensional term that may refer to physical structures like a house, social units like a family, a place of origins, concrete practices, or affective ties. It is assessed as a place, a practice, an imaginary, a feeling, or a sense of self, sometimes all at the same time (Mallett 2004: 62-89). Home is also a scalable concept that may start with the mind or body as home, a house as home, and end with a nation or even the globe as home (Marston 2000; Marston 2004). These multiple scales and dimensions of home can explain the terminological and conceptual vagueness of the term, but they can also account for the relative effortlessness with which common-sense understandings of home as well as political rhetorics often conflate house and home, home and homeland, or home, family, and forms of (national) identity.
In consequence, the notion of home is a kaleidoscope of dimensions, scales, and meanings. Nevertheless, what many associations and definitions share is their seeming stability and boundedness and their sense of home as a positive place of belonging or becoming (Fox 2016: 2-4). In these understandings, home is the centre of the self and a place where meaning is made. It is thus seen as an essential setting for the grounding of one’s identity. In this perspective, home enables the grounded self to extend its selfhood into the outside world, as claimed by Heidegger and Bachelard in their respective phenomenologies of home (Heidegger 1993; Bachelard 1994). As Bachelard famously writes: “[…] by remembering ‘houses’ and ‘rooms,’ we learn to ‘abide’ within ourselves” (Bachelard 1994: xxxvii). The logical flipside of such organic notions of home is, however, that “all forms of mobility, which ‘disembed’ individuals from their local communities, have been seen to undermine social cohesion” and have been associated with danger, pollution, and destruction (Morley 2017: 59). In this logic, modernity and modern forms of building are seen as a threat to organic forms of dwelling. Modernity is thus judged as leaving the human subject existentially homeless (Dovey 1985).
Such conceptualisations of home as integrating one’s life into an existential whole have not remained unchallenged, most crucially due to their lack of attention to the implicit power politics attached to home. They have been criticised for their romanticisation (especially of gender roles and unpaid labour within the home), their static and masculinist underpinnings (Young 1997), and for their lack of understanding of how experiences of dwelling cannot be separated from social structures and often discriminatory institutions that make and shape our experiences of home. Seeing both individual and communal experiences of home as entangled with issues of power outlines how home can be threatening rather than integrating for some groups, e.g. for women, asylum seekers, or people with disabilities (Blunt and Dowling 2006: 14). Home has therefore been explored as indeed central “for the construction and reconstruction of one’s self” (Young 1997: 153), but the focus on home as a positive, integrative site for (implicitly white, male, middle-class, able-bodied, or heterosexual) identity formation has been amended by the study of home as a site of potentially violent, constricting identifications, e.g. of gender, sexuality, or ‘race’, to name but a few (see for example Back et al. 2007; Gorman-Murray 2006; Pink 2004). These explorations have included more recent phenomena like the Covid-19 lockdowns and the governmental imperative to ‘stay at home’, more established analyses of the logics of imperialism and colonialism, as well as assessments of the securitisation of nation-states along the lines of a home in need of defense in what William Walters has termed “domopolitics” (2004).
In effect, a focus on politics of home and home-making makes visible that “[h]ome does not simply exist, but is made” (Blunt and Dowling 2006: 23). A look at concrete imaginaries, practices, and forms of home can make explicit different, concrete uses made of such politics of home and outline how artists, activists, and other practitioners across different fields have made visible how politics of home shape how people and communities can or cannot co-exist.
In this special issue of Coils of the Serpent, we want to address the variety of forms and functions of politics of home and the different engagements with these politics across the arts, disciplines, and historical contexts. We welcome contributions that engage with politics of home and their representation and contestation in the areas of cultural and literary studies, (human) geography, urban studies, anthropology, or sociology, to name but a few. We are inviting contributions on topics that include (but are not limited to)
- narrating and representing politics of home across periods, genres, and media,
- forms of community and social relationships enabled or restricted within the home,
- home as a site of inclusion and/or exclusion,
- the politics and political rhetorics of home and homeland,
- home and home-making practices as sites of resistance,
- domestic violence and the home as a site of threat,
- the home as a prison,
- the politics of homelessness and its regulation, management, and representation,
- economies of home and the role of paid/unpaid labour,
- diaspora, migration, transnational mobility and their re-assessments of politics of home,
- planetary and environmental perspectives on politics of home,
- politics of home in urban planning and gentrification,
- the politics of specific sites of home, e.g. the suburb or the owner-occupied house-as-home,
- the body politics of home and bodyless homes (e.g. in cyberspace).
Please send an abstract of approximately 500 words and a short bio to the editors Kristin Aubel and Sarah Heinz (email@example.com & firstname.lastname@example.org) by 30 November 2023. Abstracts should include a title, topic outline, and information on the kind of text (essay, statement, scholarly article) as well as the approximate length of the planned text. Submissions can be in the form of a traditional journal article, but this is not a requirement. Submissions can also be more creative, of a personal nature, and/or experimental. The editors will get back to you by 22 December 2023. Full articles will be due 31 May 2024. The special issue is scheduled to be released in winter 2024. Please read the journal’s submission guidelines: https://coilsoftheserpent.org/submissions/
Bachelard, Gaston ( 1994). The Poetics of Space. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
Back, Les et al. (2007). “Between Home and Belonging: Critical Ethnographies of Race, Place, and Identity.” Finding the Way Home: Young People’s Stories of Gender, Ethnicity, Class and Places in Hamburg and London. Ed. Nora Räthzel. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 197-223.
Blunt, Alison and Robyn Dowling (2006). Home. London: Routledge.
Dovey, Kimberley (1985). “Home and Homelessness.” Home Environments. Ed. I. Altman and C.M. Werner. New York and London: Plenum Press, 33-64.
Fox, Michael Allen (2016). Home: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP.
Gorman-Murray, Andrew (2006). “Homeboys: Uses of Home by Gay Australian Men.” Social and Cultural Geography 7.1: 53-69. doi:10.1080/14649360500452988.
Heidegger, Martin ( 1993). “Building Dwelling Thinking.” Basic Writings from Time and Being (1927) to The Task of Thinking (1964). Ed. D.F. Krell. London: Routledge, 347-363.
Mallett, Shelley (2004). “Understanding Home: A Critical Review of the Literature.” The Sociological Review 52.1: 62-89. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954X.2004.00442.x.
Marston, Sallie A. (2002). “The Social Construction of Scale.” Progress in Human Geography 24.2: 219-242. doi:10.1191/030913200674086272.
---. (2004). “A Long Way from Home: Domesticating the Social Production of Scale.” Scale and Geographic Inquiry: Nature, Society and Method. Ed. Eric Sheppard and Robert McMaster. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 170-191.
Massey, Doreen (1991). “A global sense of place.” Marxism Today June: 24-29.
Morley, David (2017). Communications and Mobility: The Migrant, the Mobile Phone, and the Container Box. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. doi:10.1002/9781119372080.
Pink, Sarah (2004). Home Truths: Gender, Domestic Objects and Everyday Life. London: Berg.
Walters, William (2004). “Secure Borders, Safe Haven, Domopolitics.” Citizenship Studies 8.3: 237-60.
Young, Iris Marion (1997). “House and home: feminist variations on a theme.” Intersecting Voices: Dilemmas of Gender, Political Philosophy, and Policy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 134-164.