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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 Two: Making Homes

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  109          Part Two: Making Homes          Continuing  several  aspects  of  home  raised  in  Borchard’s  contribution,  the  four  chapters  in  this  section  illustrate  the  importance  of  having  a  home—and  a  particular  kind  of  home—for  articulating  one’s  sense  of  self. Although the authors cover diverse geographical areas and housing  types,  they all demonstrate people’s  investment  in  finding or making a  home  that  is  decent,  comfortable,  and  expressive  of  the  householders’  identities. As all the authors reveal, this commitment persists even when  the dwellings available are far from matching cultural ideals of home.  In “Fragments of Home in Youth Care Institutions,” David Wäster‑ fors examines how youth make themselves at “home” in an institutional  setting.  The  chapter  draws  upon  ethnographic  research  in  Swedish  institutions housing young men with psychosocial disorders, records of  criminal behavior, or similar problems. The youth are not here by choice,  and  their  behavior  is  fairly  tightly  controlled.  As  Wästerfors  asserts,  home in this context is made or unmade through a series of accomplish‑ ments,  utilizing  both  material  goods  and  social  practices.  Wästerfors  focuses  on  the  youths’  ability  to  personalize  space,  and  thus  cultivate  identity; and on the accomplishments of both privacy and integrity. For  instance,  crafting  an  identity  by  personalizing  one’s  dormitory  room  might mean putting up pictures of  loved ones, or  it might mean neatly  organizing one’s closet (thus contrasting with a “disorderly” identity that  was  created  through  interactions  with  staff).  When  privacy  cannot  be  obtained through conventional means such as closing a door,...

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