“Home” conjures a range of signifiers both material and nonmaterial; at once conceptual, cultural and deeply personal. Home has always been the sentimental, emotional, and narrative component of the house—as Luther Vandross famously sang, “a house is not a home.” But what does home mean today in a world at once wrenched apart and dizzyingly compressed by imperialism, globalization, capitalism, and migration? What does home mean today in the shadow of climate crisis, homelessness, and vast wealth disparity? What does home mean for black people living “in the wake” of an institution that once considered them property, commodities, objects in the inventory of someone else’s home? An institution where personhood was determined by land ownership, expropriation, enclosure and settlement? How do we contend today with the practice of building and living on stolen land? And in the midst of these realities and histories, how has home been forged, invented, and projected—“made”?
Whether wielded rhetorically as a tool for nationalism, deconstructed as a myth that upholds relations of capitalism, heteronormativity and white supremacism, or as a fraught and shifting center of discourses on immigration, indigeneity, and settlement, the concept of home has long been at the center of debate for scholars and practitioners who consider space and place. While imagined as a site of privacy, protection and respite, the intimate domestic relations of black life at home have long been intervened upon by institutional and state authority, from the Moynihan report to urban renewal, from Regan-era “Welfare Queens,” to the spate of black Americans who have recently been assaulted and killed in their own homes by state sanctioned violence.
Where the house may be elusive and freighted by notions of ownership, the idea of home nonetheless conjures familiarity, a deep sense of knowing, desire, nostalgia, and longing. For those who have had to make home out of the uninhabitable, home has always also included resourcefulness, pleasure, creativity and freedom. As such, we pose these questions with keen attention to those who have made and continue to make home outside of and in spite of the “house.” As a distinctly gendered territory, how have black women, in particular, labored to yet and still make home a vital refuge from white supremacy and the dictates of patriarchy? What has constituted the “wayward lives and beautiful experiments" in domestic relations launched by those making home beyond the dictates of respectability, normative arrangements or bounds of law, figuring what it means to live (a free life)?
“How will we live together?” Following this question, posed by the curators of the 2020 Venice Biennale, this one-day symposium interrogates discourses around housing, domesticity and the making of home.
Free and open to the public with RSVP
Organized by BSA+GSAPP
Black Student Alliance at Columbia GSAPP