Home and the Limits of Individualization
Directed by Emmanuelle Maunaye, Elsa Ramos
Home and the Limits of Individualization: Personal, Statutory, and Spaces of Belonging in Disequilibrium
Emmanuelle Maunaye, Elsa Ramos
Research context: This article takes on the point of view that places the focus on the individual, despite belonging within a family group, and explores the concept of home as a space that contributes to the formation of an “individualized individual,” but that also takes into account the possible limits of this function of home.
Objectives: This overview aims to define the concept of home to uncover all of its dimensions. Whether the spatial, temporal and relational dimensions of the home can be distinguished for the purposes of analysis, on the one hand, the article centres on how these dimensions interrelate intimately among the experiences of individuals to help form their personal identity, autonomy, self-empowerment and relationship to location or place (Simard and Savoie, 2009). On the other hand, these dimensions help to build groups and family relationships.
Methodology: This article is based on a literature review and on the contributions to this issue to present the concept of home and the theoretical perspective gleaned.
Results: In familial, marital and intergenerational cohabitation, the construct of home is played out in interactions with other family members, who have their own constructs and concepts of home. These constructs and concepts produce differentiated and sometimes asymmetrical relationships, as well as three different experiences of home. The first refers to personal spaces, my “home”; the second, to the rules and laws that govern a cohabitation and the space in which home is located. In this case, it is defined by a statutory and hierarchical aspect, and the individual has a place assigned by their status. This is designated as “our home.” The third is epitomized by belonging and by a place within a group or community where the individual is considered equal. This is belonging to our home. If the first “home” is the main factor in the process of individualization, so are the other two: one explains the boundaries of “home,” and the other, the individual’s belonging within the group, notably the family.
Conclusions: The question of home entails two aspects: the relationship with home of the sole inhabitant and the relationship with home of the inhabitant together with others. In this second aspect, a tension develops between the sense of autonomy and that of belonging to a group. Being a member of the group, interpreted as being in our home, has two dimensions: being assigned within our home and belonging to our home. In this sense, our home acts as a constraint on the concept of home, and the family seems to be a paradoxical validation of the individual. Thus, the family has a double function: to make it possible to be oneself (preferring personal spaces and validating individual dimensions of identity) and to acknowledge that each member belongs to the group and has a place in it. The limits to individualizing home become apparent when there is an imbalance among these three aspects of “home”: having personal space, being assigned within our home, and belonging to our home.
Contribution: Home constitutes a valuable perspective in this construct, which links the past, present and future: having been, being and becoming. The iterative movement between home and identity is central to the formation of the individual and the family group.
The Individual and the trials at home
Research Framework: Home has been the subject of numerous analyzes showing its importance in the process of individualization, but its difficulties and tensions have been little studied. This article focuses on these aspects.
Objectives: Aiming to show how being at home can also be a source of trials for individuals, it leads to many constraints or vicissitudes in the experimentation of oneself and the appropriation of one’s life.
Methodology: The analysis is based on a comprehensive qualitative survey, based on 40 semi-structured interviews conducted jointly or remotely with individuals from the middle class, rather young, active, living for the most part in Paris and Île-de-France, in apartments of which they are generally the tenants.
Results: From this survey, the article identifies four types of tests depending on whether this concerns the process of installation, appropriation, its management or its loss. It thus shows how the difficulties in its access, its mobility, its personalization, its invasion, the tediousness of its tasks and its relation to objects, as well as its loss (real or symbolic) are ordeals that can lead to the feeling of destabilization, misappropriation, fatigue and ruin, of oneself.
Conclusion: The trials of home lead to questioning the notion of the refuge of oneself that the home embodies in the modern imagination and in particular in its dimensions of lair and landmarks.
Contribution: This article wants to draw attention to the fact that home has become a source of daily trials. Somewhat underestimated because of the housing crisis, its problem constitutes a reality whose stakes are crucial regarding the process of individualization in the construction and ownership of the self.
Management of Marital Intimacy in the Context of Intergenerational Cohabitation in Cameroon: the Case of Couples Living at Home with the Mother of One of their Partners
Félix Duclaux Habit Tankeu, Honoré Mimche
Research framework: This article takes a look at the home, understood here as the home of the couple who welcomes under their roof a parent from one of the spouses. This constitutes a limit to the process of individualization of the couple in their intimate life.
Objectives: The objective is to analyze how couples living in their own home with the mother of one of their spouses manage their intimacy, in so far as this cohabitation is likely to interfere with the marital relationship.
Methodology: We chose a qualitative analysis with semi-structured interviews conducted with 17 respondents aged between 28 and 49 years, living in a couple and cohabiting with the mother of one of the partners.
Results: Intergenerational cohabitation is an obstacle to individualization and leads to changes in the intimate behaviours of couples who welcome the mother of one of the spouses into their home. In the same way, her presence and her interference in the marital affairs lead the couples to adjust their behaviours in order to preserve their limited intimacy.
Conclusion: Intergenerational cohabitation constitutes, on the one hand, an obstacle to the individualization and intimacy of couples. On the other hand, the adjustments that the couples adopt, both in terms of behaviour and in the management of space, testify to the importance that they give to their marital individuality.
Contribution: This article, which is part of the intergenerational cohabitation problematic, allows us to document and elaborate our knowledge around this notion, through the specific case of Cameroonian couples.
To Wash One’s Dirty Linen in Private: Home by the Analysis of Laundry Care Practises
Noé Klein, Chiara Piazzesi, Hélène Belleau
Research Framework: Our paper is the result of research on social practices and circulation of laundry in Quebec households. By studying the processes of daily laundry management, we analyze boundary work that takes place between individual responsibility and the common burden that this set of domestic tasks represents.
Objectives: Our paper aims to explore the way in which laundry care participates in the spatial, temporal and relational structuring of the “home”. We also seek to study the distribution of responsibilities according to the logics that run through laundry management.
Methodology: We conducted a qualitative survey of 20 people living in couples in Montreal, which involved an individual interview as well as photographic documentation of the different states of laundry among the participants.
Results: Laundry care is an essential element of domestic life that defines the “home” as a space and calls for a rhythmic approach. Despite some attempts to divide these tasks more equally, women are generally given greater responsibility for managing the common laundry, and the arrival of children precipitates a logic of collectivization of tasks around laundry. This has the effect of “imprisoning” women, especially mothers, into a role that is linked to the upkeep of the “home”, in particular by taking care of the common laundry.
Conclusion: Laundry management is made up of a set of practices and logics that participate in the spatial, temporal and relational structuration of the “home”. The fact that women take care of the common part of the laundry shows a persistent link between the feminine and the upkeep of laundry, and by extension of the family home.
Contribution: This article is part of a growing literature that analyzes family and domestic processes in their making through repeated material practices of domestic work, mainly organized along gender differences. Laundry care is rarely the focus of such literature, which is the reason why our article brings a specific contribution to this debate.
Returning Home in the Event of Cancer, a Threat for Teenagers Individualization? Mother’s Feedbacks
Research framework: This article is the result of a Phd thesis that aims to understand how parental practices and relationships between children and their mothers are redefined when they are affected by a cancer.
Objectives: Our aim is to show that for some suffering mothers who have reinvested their homes during their treatments, cancer may be perceived as a barrier to the children’s individualization as adolescents.
Methodology: We will rely on fourteen semi-structured interviews. They were conducted with mothers who had teenagers between the ages of eleven to eighteen and who are not working during their cancer treatment.
Results: In their case, cancer can be experienced as an obstacle to the individualization of teenagers when it is a threat for their juvenile sociability, to their “experimentations” (Ramos, 2001; 2002) in solitude of the family home and/or to their expression of a “young” identity. When viewed from this perspective, illness is blamed for the deterioration of mother’s relationships with their teenagers.
Conclusions: This relational degradation highlights an imbalance due to the continuous presence of mothers in their homes, which tends to relegate the “young person” behind the figures of the “son/daughter of” and/or the “student”.
Contribution: This article questions the “normal” nature of adolescents individualization that may be experienced with difficulty for some mothers affected by cancer.
Nearby and the Nest: A Sense of “Homeness” Among Rural Working-Class Youth
Research framework: While popular rural spaces have long been defined by the indigenous relationship of the ties of inter-acquaintance that could be played out on the scale of the commune, or « the corner », today’s popular and rural youth are faced with a fragmentation of the ties of sociability as well as the narrowing of the sense of belonging around the parental home.
Objective: This article seeks to understand how the sense of belonging to a space – a home – crystallizes for a population of working-class rural youths who are faced with fragmentation and casualization of low-skilled rural employment, as well as generational tensions that turn them away from the public space.
Methodology: To do this, we will rely on a survey conducted in New Aquitaine on the transition to adulthood of working-class rural youth. Based on the sociology of experience, this survey includes 100 semi-structured interviews with these young people as well as 24 interviews with people responsible for their professional integration and educational pathways.
Results: This article highlights how the fragmentation and precariousness of low-skilled employment have decentered the sociabilities of working-class rural youth from their commune of origin, and weakened the relationship between social proximity and spatial proximity in these spaces. In addition, this article focuses on the move of these young people from an inherited rural and popular culture to a youthful, urban and middle-class culture whose codes and values they share.
Conclusion: This generational gap is a source of tension, even stigmatization, which turns these young people away from the public space (the corner) and polarizes the feeling of home around the parental home (the cocoon).
Contribution: Our work allows us to highlight the impact of the recent mutations of the popular rural spaces on the feeling of « home » during the period of individualization that youth represents.
The forced return of young people: a stay with their parents
Research framework: The article explores the feelings of young people who have no other choice but to return to their parents’ home. We question their relationship to the family and to private space in this new re-cohabitation. These relationships will be considered as analyzers of their individualization process, which can be defined through two dimensions: autonomy – the ability to give oneself one’s own law – and independence – the capacity to obtain one’s own resources (de Singly, 2000).
Objectives: The purpose of this article is to analyze the evolution of the feeling of “home” when young people, after having experienced an autonomous and/or independent life, are forced by the material or psychological conditions of their existence to return to live with their parents.
Methodology: The survey consisted of 57 semi-structured interviews with young people who had returned to live with their families.
Results: We will examine the profile of young people who have been forced to return, the resistance in front of this return, often lived as a failure. We will also analyze the negotiations in the family life to preserve a personal identity and their individualization while having statutory consideration from their parents.
Conclusions: The conclusion will allow us to highlight the existing links between individualization and the feeling towards the parents’ housing.
Contribution: This research highlights the fact that the feeling of home towards the parents’ home is an analyzer of the greater or lesser autonomy acquired by the young person throughout his or her life. Before the first move away from parents’ home, young people seek autonomy in living together and appropriate their personal space. On the contrary, when the return is forced, young people do not have and do not wish to have a sense of home. They try to maintain their individualization through a very limited investment in the appropriation of the family home space.
Being at “home”, not quite “inside” nor completely “outside”. Young Algerians facing the test of the “in-between”
Research framework: Young Algerians under the age of thirty are considered as an “invisible” population because they are the first to be affected by the unemployment crisis. This crisis leads to multiple exclusions and numerous precariousnesses and contributes to making a visible population invisible.
Objectives: This paper aims to document and better understand the subjective representations of “home” among young Algerian under the age of 30 who are considered as an “invisible” population, as well as to analyze the concept of “home” from a micro-sociological perspective and to go beyond general representations in order to gain a true understanding of the different dimensions associated with it.
Methodology: Based on three qualitative research studies, this article is based on semi-structured interviews with young Algerian adults (aged 18 to 30 years old), in Annaba and Oran, at different times (2009-2010, 2017 and 2020). The comprehensive socio-anthropological approach allows us to understand the concept of “home” at different levels of analysis, in particular to grasp individual and collective representations as well as issues related to spatial, social and identity dimensions.
Results: Subjective representations of “home” highlight the dimension of identity in an individual and collective perspective. Thus, “home” represents an active construction, based on personal and collective goals, imaginations and ideals.
Conclusions: The concept of “home” is a process related to a subjective reality rather than an objective social fact. The subjective nature of people’s experience is central to this work, as it allows for different dimensions of “home” to be brought together.
Contribution: This article is a theoretical and practical analysis of the concept of “home” which is situated in an in-between (inside/outside) where the needs of individualization and socialization clash.
Ageing at Home in a Situation of Dependency: Attachment to the Place of Residence and (Dis)continuity of Identity in Old Age
Research Framework: The research focuses on interventions related to assistance and care, by relatives and professionals, necessary to support the autonomy at home of dependent elderly people in France (Alsace).
Objectives: This article examines the ambiguity of attachment to the home, which should be understood in the double sense of “what we value” and “what holds us”, in some “borderline” home care situations. The analysis focuses on the correlation between this ambiguity and the emergence of a discontinued feeling of identity.
Methodology: This research involved comprehensive interviews with dependent older adults with neurocognitive disorders, care professionals and family caregivers (N=41), as well as field notes from participating observations during home visits by professional caregivers.
Results: Older adults who are attached with an “uncertain identity” and “insecure” way to their home are confined to it most of the time because of combined vulnerabilities: psychological, physical, economic and (especially) relational, notably because of the absence of close relatives mobilized in the daily assistance and care.
Conclusions: Some people in situations of dependence lack meaningful interpersonal attachments, that would provide them with opportunities for engaging and supporting their reflexiveness in the maintaining of their relationship with home. Its status then becomes ambiguous, sometimes to the point of undermining its function as a protective “home” and allowing the projection of the inhabitant’s identity.
Contribution: Mobilizing mainly the sociology of attachments, this article aims to bring an innovative approach to this field, while contributing in an original way to the analyses relating to home in situations of dependence.
On the value of developing the notion of symbiosis in the study of hygge and the Danish family
Research framework: During my fieldwork with a Danish family where I studied the daily practices of family hygge (Danish well-being), my emic status changed from “au pair” to “big sister”. To understand this transformation, I decided to show the hygge-family association as symbiotic.
Objectives: This paper aims to develop the notion of symbiosis so as to describe hygge-family relationships. In particular, I studied and questioned the often vague concept of hygge, which is sometimes associated with values and in other occasions with a Danish domestic and family way of life. This will allow us to understand the consequences of this symbiosis on my role and status within the family.
Methodology: The article is based on participant observation and introspection in the sense of reflexive return on a nine-month fieldwork in a Danish family with three children (a father, a mother, a seven-year-old girl and three-year-old twins) in Hillerød.
Results: Two empirical arguments underline the relevance of the notion of symbiosis: the observation of parenting practices and the analysis of the Danish child’s representations. The use of symbiosis also highlights a theoretical interest and helps to better grasp my role and place in the family.
Contribution: Through the notion of symbiosis, this article brings forth another viewpoint of the Danish family and hygge. It also allowed for a reflexivity of the anthropologist’s practices on the field.
At home? Forty-six years later. A case study about an old couple
Anne Laure Le Guern, Mélanie Tocqueville
Research framework: In this article, the case study is part of a research on parity at home and commissioned by a training institute. By parity, we mean the ability to share the burdens of domestic work fairly (not only household tasks) and to take part in decision-making. The objective of this research is to identify the competences of the couples surveyed, i.e. what constitutes a resource for them. It aims to obtain accounts of changes (childbirth, marriage, divorce, re-marriage, moving) by seeking to know if this is an event that changes something.
Objectives: The objective of this article is to identify the gendered aging of a heterosexual, elderly, remarried couple, owners of a main house and second homes, and to understand how they make the space theirs.
Methodology: This research puts together a monography of couples. Aiming to make respondents’ investigators of their own lives, and to grasp their privacy without actually being there, the interviewees each constitute a corpus of photographs that they select and comment on by titling and adding a brief note. The corpus is thus a support for an individual interview, which can be carried on with the surveyed couple.
Results: This corpus bears witness to the mobilities within the homes of the respondents and reveals what is really a “home”. It delimits the private and intimate spaces from the shared spaces of co-habitation, which is expressed in a dual form. The case of an elderly couple, remarried for forty-six years, allows us to explore ways in which individuality is preserved.
Conclusion: The case of this remarried elderly couple shows gendered ways of doing things and saying that gives advantage to female domestic work. It features an expanded self, exposes and displays the assertion of financial and moral autonomy.
Contribution: The exploration of the home shows the need for “huts” (Macé, 2019) or to encabanate oneself (Bachelart, 2012) in order to be “at home”, strengthening the link between property and individuation, and showing the ever-renewed test of strength for/of self-assertion.
From a “public health issue” to a “social phenomenon”? The French media coverage of late motherhood and late fatherhood (2001–2019)
Research framework: Since the 1980s, late births (above age 35 or 40) have been on the rise in low-fertility countries such as France. The normative context in which this phenomenon occurs is rarely explored. Notably, it may now be more favourable to late parenthood than it was in the past.
Objectives: To study the discourse on late motherhood and fatherhood in the contemporary French media, by questioning the main themes and the actors and actresses carrying these discourses.
Methodology: The main vocabulary categories are highlighted from a textual analysis taken from a corpus of online French media, which consists of 137 publications dating from 2001 to 2019 (mainly from the 2010s).
Results: The first theme refers to the risks of late pregnancy that is supported by medical expertise. By means of demographic expertise, another main theme shows a trend towards an increase in late births. When it comes to postmenopausal pregnancies, late motherhood is still widely condemned while late fatherhood is less covered. When it is, it is with regard to the risks of fetal malformations increasing with the man’s age and cases of celebrities becoming fathers later in life.
Conclusions: Warnings about the medical risks associated with late parenthood, contributing to its representation as a “public health issue”, are largely counterbalanced by more positive discourses, that are introducing late parenthood as a “social phenomenon”.
Contribution: This analysis contributes to understanding the context in which late parenthood increases, and provides elements related to the media coverage of gender and family roles.