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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.