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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.