For a Comparative Sociology of Home(s). Tracing Variations in a Universal Need and Practice across Settings, Notions and Emotions

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:14
Oral Presentation
Paolo BOCCAGNI, University of Trento, Trento, Italy
This paper outlines a theoretical and methodological agenda for the comparative study of home. Sociologically, this notion stands for a socio-material setting, a kind of social relationship with place, and a value-laden category for the discursive production of identity, belonging and the boundary between insiders and outsiders. Each of these analytical foci is significant in itself and as an entry point for research into housing, care, social reproduction, emotion, material culture and majority-minority relations. Each of them raises significant methodological challenges. In both respects, the ways in which home is conceived, sensed and enacted by individuals or social groups are a promising terrain for comparative analysis, at several levels: between countries, socio-cultural groups, housing and household arrangements, and degrees of (im)mobility – or through a combination of these axes, in light of the “usual” socio-demographics. Large-scale comparison, particularly through collaborative and multi-sited ethnography, can advance knowledge of the drivers of (and variations in) fundamental issues such as the relationship between house and home; the ways in which people conceive home and feeling at home across countries and groups of reference; the interaction between the fixity of dwellings and the mobility of life trajectories; the ways in which dwellings as lived environments mirror societal or group-specific values, life styles and inequalities. In the abstract, home and feeling-at-home are virtually universal social patterns, whatever the ways of phrasing, conceiving and enacting them. In practice, a comparative study of their enactment over space and time can illuminate the experience of home and, indirectly, a range of other sociologically meaningful issues. This paper interrogates this research prospect and the attendant challenges, based on the preliminary findings of ERC HOMInG – a comparative study of the home experience among natives and foreign-born, “mobile” and “immobile” people, in several countries, as connected by international migration flows.