Disassembling Home: Touch, Smell, and the Autoethnographic Exploration of Moving My Grandmother out

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:40
Location: Seminar 33 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Petr GIBAS, Sociological Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic
Home is not just a place where one resides. Rather, it is a fluid assemblage of different places related with various intensities to one’s everyday life, sense of self and personal identity, although these are in constant change and exposed to on-going re-negotiations. In my paper, I draw on my autoethnographic study of emptying my grandmother’s flat, after she had to move out, and recount the process of materially disassembling her home. Since autoethnography is an approach that describes and systematically analyses personal experience to understand more general issues (Ellis, Adams a Bochner, 2010: 1), I use autoethnographic research, notes as well as photographs, to explore the notion of home as an assemblage sustained and characterised by particular sensory experiences. The flat filled with objects used to be a coherent, if crammed, whole where my grandmother spent most of her life, my father his childhood and where I went on innumerable visits. As such, the materiality of the flat with its textures and smells was not only my grandmother’s home but also part of my own, although spatially dislocated from where I lived. In emptying it, I gradually disassembled this coherent assemblage of things by moving and removing individual objects; I dissolved it into an assortment of things that changed their place, moved to other flats, were sold or thrown out. With them and in the process, the smells harboured by the things and their assemblages so typical and deeply remembered slowly dissipated. In my paper, I concentrate on my tactile and olfactory experience in disassembling my grandmother’s home (and with it also part of my own) and on the connection between smells and objects, its importance and volatility. This helps me to pose questions and offer tentative answers about home as an assemblage, its temporariness and sensory groundings.