Home: across time and space and culture, there has been perhaps no more resonant an idea. Both material and affective, home is a space of origin and dwelling, set apart from spheres of promiscuous public interaction and of emptiness. To have a home is to be more than housed: it is to be given an identity, to feel belonging, to find refuge, to constitute private or domestic life, to gather people and material objects, and to generate memory. By contrast, to be without a home is to be outside of or excluded from that centering and protective space, to feel estrangement or abandonment, to wander detached from place, or perhaps from another perspective to take on a new and cosmopolitan identity, self-willed and multivalent.
From homepage to homeroom to homeland, home is a place to which one is tethered. Yet home and homelessness are also constituted from the outside – constructed through policy, imbued with ideology, and elaborated aesthetically in relation to other times and traditions. Authorities construct and destroy homes; institutions proclaim their economic and moral value; designers imagine their utopic possibilities.
Throughout 2019 to 2021, we engage a wide range of humanities-oriented scholarship as we take up a number of questions addressing our theme. What is home’s force or energy as a thing and an idea? How is home imagined, deployed, and conjured as an object of desire? How is home simultaneously a mechanism of protection and of exclusion? Who can have a home, and what are the conditions of its possibility? How has the home evolved historically and manifested differently across cultures? What is home’s relation to language and identity, exile and migration?
Above: "Home" by Patrick Hughes (courtesy of Amherst College Archives)