May 30 – 2023

Time: 10.15-12 (CEST)
Place: Online – Zoom
In English

Chair: Tove Samzelius, Senior Lecturer, Malmö University

Finding home in the unhomely: home-making and materiality in temporary accommodation

Dr Mel Nowicki, Reader in Urban and Social Geography, Oxford Brookes University

This presentation explores how people living in temporary accommodation use material objects to establish a sense of home in what are often deeply un-homely settings. I draw on research conducted with families experiencing homelessness in London and Dublin who were, or had been, living in various forms of temporary accommodation, ranging from purpose-built temporary flats, to hotel rooms. Research findings highlight the importance of objects traditionally imbued with homely connotations, such as fireplaces, throws, family photos and wall decorations, in the home-making process. Such determination to establish home takes place in accommodations that are purposeful in their un-homeliness – banning decoration, personalisation, and in the case of hotels, even basic domestic activities such as cooking. I argue that participants’ determination to find a semblance of home in such settings highlights the centrality of domestic practices and objects for restoring dignity in traumatic circumstances. This should be a key factor for policymakers and service providers to consider in the design and licensing of temporary accommodation. 

Discussant: Matti Wirehag, Senior Lecturer, Division of Social Work and Social Pedagogy at University West

The Right to housing of precariously living families in Berlin

Katharina Winkler, PhD Student, Sociology of Law, University of Bern

The presentation asks how homeless families in Berlin navigate their precarious situation while, at the same time, being exposed to statutory laws and practices. With a socio-legal perspective and an ethnographic analysis of the families’ lived experiences, the daily struggles with the authorities become visible and thus reveal gaps and contradictions within the law.

Based on the first findings of Katharina’s dissertation project “The right to housing of precariously living families in Berlin”, the presentation shows that the legal dimension of the right to housing, e.g. the possibility of an own tenancy agreement for an adequate accommodation, becomes impossible to realise for these families. The gaps in the law are shown when homeless families have to live permanently but insecurely in temporary emergency shelters, in overcrowded flats, or informal arrangements because they neither have access to adequate housing on the private housing market, nor can compete successfully for social housing, or can fulfil contradictory requirements of the social services.

Discussant: Elisabet Näsman, Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology at Uppsala University