©Copyright first three photos ("Outdoor Furniture", "House", "Spring Trees"): Nourit Melcer-Padon; copyright last two photos ("Wall", "Door"): Zuzanna Bulat-Silva

Scales of Home in Today's Europe

Interdisciplinary Working Group

The understanding and experience of home as an 'embryonic community' (M. Douglas) is a key factor in the formation of individual and collective identities. Being at home means being positioned within a socio-cultural order that one understands and/or is familiar with. It is this notion of home that is pervasive both in Western everyday discourses on home, representations of home in film or literature, and in current sociological, anthropological and ethnographic research. The intersection between individual and collective identity is tied to the multi-scalar character of home: home can be situated on different levels, ranging from one's body as a home, a physical structure (e.g. house, trailer), to a neighbourhood or even larger-level units such as the nation. This list points to what geographers describe as the "simultaneous, 'nested' (like a Russian doll), yet partially hierarchical, relationship between scales" (E. Swyngedouw). These scales of home are not pre-given, but produced through discursive and material practices (cf. E. Sheppard / R.B. McMaster, eds., Scale and Geographic Inquiry, 2004; A. Blunt / R. Dowling, Home, 2006). The scalar production of home is shaped by power struggles and has far-reaching socio-political consequences.


Our research project aims to analyse how scales of home are imagined and socially constructed in Europe since the 1990s. We focus on 'scalar narratives', 'scalar politics' and 'scalar practices' of home, to use Erik Swyngedouw's terminology. Our project concentrates on the time since the 1990s because this is a period marked by what the sociologist Hartmut Rosa describes as an acceleration of social change due to the digital, economic and political revolution. Moreover, the 1990s also witnessed the consolidation of a new super-national scale that, in turn, influenced how scales of home are imagined or constructed within European countries: the European Union.


In our project, we combine our interest for scales of home in Europe with a focus on those who stay 'at home' or in a place. While there are numerous studies devoted to home in the context of migration and diaspora, the experience and production of 'home' by people who do not move or migrate requires further research. How do scaling processes and socio-cultural transformations shape how locals experience their 'home'? At what scales of home do locals situate themselves and how do they contribute to shaping the contested scales on which home is framed? Of special interest in this context is how the concept of home is used to construct and negotiate differences in terms of gender, class, ethnicity and nationality. Our research project combines ethnological, linguistic, literary and artistic perspectives on home. This interdisciplinary approach allows capturing the multifaceted nature of scales of home.


The kick-off event for the establishment of this working group was an interdisciplinary workshop on 'home' at the 11th congress of the International Society of Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF). Our working group home is part of the SIEF Place Wisdom Group.