Paolo Boccagni: “Saving home from the pitfalls of the home, through homing”

HOMInG Working paper no. 1/2017
“Saving home from the pitfalls of the home, through homing. Towards a ‘positive deconstruction’ of the social meanings, functions and moralities of home”

The home holds an inclusive and supportive potential for vulnerable people which is both critical and under-explored. In order to advance research into it, this paper interrogates the material, relational and emotional conditions under which a particular domestic space is indeed a source of feeling-at-home for its dwellers. Such an exercise starts from a deconstruction of the ideological representations of the home as a necessarily and naturally “good” entity which, as such, should not be discussed, let alone researched, further. This commonsensical view touches deep chords and emotional needs in people’s everyday life. Nonetheless, much critical literature has led to more reflexive and nuanced views of what home means to whom, inviting to study the protective and inclusionary scope of the home as an empirical question, rather than (only) a normative ideal. While the human need to feel somehow at home seems to apply anywhere, regardless of social or cultural backgrounds, whether and how a domestic setting does overlap with home – as a distinctive source of security, familiarity and control – is a major research and policy issue. By revisiting the transdisciplinary debate on “home studies”, and based on my current research on home and mobility, this paper argues for a novel understanding of the environmental, family and personal variables which can turn a dwelling into a home; a complex, but critical transition for an empirically-based view of home to inform health and social care.