HOMInG’s Paolo Boccagni will give a keynote at the International conference Optimistic Suburbia 2, to take place at ISCTE-IUL in Lisbon on 16-18 June. The conference, primarily addressed to housing, urban and architecture scholars, aims to explore “the shaping and the pattern of autonomous neighbourhoods for the middle-class, both of private and public promotion, on the outskirts of big cities… in the second half of the twentieth century”. Against this backdrop, Paolo’s keynote will invite a broader sociological understanding of home (see below).

Plenary session II – 18 June, 9am
Paolo Boccagni

Unpacking home as a sociological question: back (to the house), forward (to the metaphor) and in-between

My presentation takes stock of the sociological debate on the meanings, functions and implications of home, borrowing also from an ongoing research project on the experience of home under circumstances of cross-border mobility (ERC HOMInG). Much recent literature on home has gone back to the role of housing infrastructures, affordances and material cultures, or forward to reveal that home, whatever it means, operates also as a powerful and elusive social metaphor. In-between lies the sociological significance of home as a relational attempt to make some place ‘special’ and ‘own’, relative to the rest. This is an endeavour that conflates ‘positive’ emotions such as security, intimacy and comfort with a more problematic subtext of control, exclusion and subordination. Home as a tentative form of space appropriation has its own ambiguities, and even ambivalence, as much critical literature has already emphasized. However, the relational foundations of this attempt – whether it primarily involves places, significant others, or past- or future-related imaginaries – deserve further elaboration. I aim to advance it, in this presentation, by interrogating the interdisciplinary literature on the ‘doing’, ‘making’ and ‘scaling’ of home in the light of my research findings.