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International Perspectives on Culture, Identity, and Belonging

Margarethe Kusenbach and Krista E. Paulsen

This book presents fourteen original contributions by authors examining the importance of dwellings and local communities in people’s everyday lives. Through qualitative research conducted in North America and Europe, the volume explores the ways in which home is created both ideally and practically, at levels ranging from individual housing units to neighborhoods and public spaces. Even when the circumstances of making one’s home deviate from cultural ideals – for instance, in crowded, institutional, or stigmatized housing contexts, in disadvantaged or transient neighborhoods, or when one has no permanent dwelling at all – the authors illuminate how experiences and practices of home are central to what it means to be human.

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Part One: Ideas of Home

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  23          Part One: Ideas of Home          The  chapters  in  this  section  examine  how  home  takes  on  its  substantial  meaning  and  power.  Through  examinations  of  how  homes  are  lost,  found, bought,  and  sold,  the  scholars  included here detail  a breadth of  cultural messages  associated with  home,  as well  as  the  stakes  of  these  messages for individuals and households.   Krista E. Paulsen’s chapter “Modeling Home: Ideals of Residential  Life in Builders’ Show Houses,” takes up the questions of how particular  dwellings become associated with specific households, families, and sta‑ tuses.  The  work  draws  upon  observations  of  model  homes  created  as  part  of  broader  marketing  efforts  for  Northeast  Florida  communities  built  during  the  height  of  the  recent  US  housing  boom  (2002‑2007).  In  trying  to  sell  new  homes,  builders  and  their  marketing  staffs  seek  to  show  what  life  might  be  like  for  those  who  will  live  in  these  as  yet  largely un‑built or unoccupied developments. As Paulsen finds, the mes‑ sages  they convey about  future residents are “not neutral”:  in  trying  to  reach likely buyers, builders and “model home merchandisers” reinforce  taken‑for‑granted cultural notions of just what kind of people will be “at  home”  in  what  kind  of  dwelling.  Through  careful  choices  in  home  furnishings  and  décor,  they  communicate  that  single‑family  homes  are  exclusively for families with children, and that attached dwellings are for  households without children—among other normative, or even discrimi‑ natory,  messages.  The  chapter  points  to  the  power  of  marketing  tech‑ niques to amplify cultural...

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