After a long 5-year hiatus, I’m pleased to say I’m finally attending another Housing Studies Association conference. I’ll be presenting research on the experience of home amongst formerly homeless young people in Scotland, developing the metaphor of ‘the fold’ to show how large-scale societal processes were folded and compounded within the young people’s home-making practices. In particular, how being caught between the expansion of Scotland’s devolved rights-based housing system and neoliberal developments towards punitive welfare and precarious employment gave rise to a dissonant Janus-faced home. A place of relative security and comfort but as the young people could not actualise their plans outside the home also a place of boredom and frustration.
This year’s topic for the HSA conference is Housing, devolution and localities: Inventing a future or more of the same? and will take place on the 6th – 8th April 2020 at the University of Sheffield.
A diverse multidisciplinary literature on home has emerged. From the meaning of home, to practices of home, and recent explorations on assemblages of home. Each highlighting in turn the importance of the symbolic, practical, and material dimensions. They have unpacked the complexity of what takes place in the home with the relation between home and society relatively unchanged. Often the latter relation is couched in metaphors of mirroring, reflecting, or refracting, whereby we have ‘post-modern homes in a post-modern society’. This creates a difficulty in explaining how multiple, potentially conflicting, societal processes impact the experience of home. This paper draws on the work of Lahire and research with formerly homeless young people in Scotland to develop an alternative metaphor of ‘the fold’. Starting from the pressures experienced by young people in managing an independent tenancy, it is shown how the pressures were experienced and the techniques used to manage them depended on young people’s multiple social positions. These multiple positions formed a constellation of relations acting as a prism through which wider societal processes entered the home, becoming folded and compounded in their home-making practices. Crucially, participants were caught between the expansion of Scotland’s devolved rights-based housing system and neoliberal developments towards punitive welfare and precarious employment. These pressures when folded within the tenancy created a dissonant Janus-faced home. A home that provided relative security and comfort, yet as the young people could not actualise their plans beyond the home was also experienced as a place of boredom and frustration.