Home can be made as well as unmade, in a literal, relational or emotional sense. Barbara Bertolani and Paolo Boccagni explore this process through the lived experience of two family houses in semi-rural Punjab. Their article, which has just been published in Geoforumdraws on HOMInG’s fieldwork in India in 2019. It aims to contribute to the literature on home unmaking by revealing its multiple sources, temporalities and entanglements, starting from gender and generational relations within particular domestic spaces. Abstract below!

Two houses, one family, and the battlefield of home: A housing story of home unmaking in rural Punjab

Barbara Bertolani, Paolo Boccagni

Geoforum 127, 57-66, 2021


This article investigates the lived experience of a family house as a battlefield between contrasting views, emotions, cultures and practices of home. It aims to make sense of the underlying tensions as a matter of home unmaking – a process of disruption of the normative, relational or physical bases of home – within the housing pathway of an extended family in semi-rural Punjab, India. Building on in-depth interviews with family members and on participant observation of their dwellings, we explore the causes and consequences of home unmaking from without (due to environmental factors) and from within (after deep-rooted intergenerational tensions). By looking at people’s ongoing relations with particular domestic spaces and objects within a traditional house(hold), we highlight the negotiation of gender and generational roles and the attendant family transformations. Home unmaking, as a process with multiple sources, temporalities, and entanglements, provokes a range of reactions and counter-reactions in such settings. We capture them, and propose a framework for their comparative analysis and understanding, by embedding people’s narratives in their family and housing circumstances. This is necessary to advance further, and beyond the scope of Western countries, research into the unmaking of home, both in and out of one’s dwelling.