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Remembering and imagining a normal home

[Editor’s note: This is an extract from Ana Gutiérrez-Garza’s new monograph, Care for Sale: Intimate dislocations of Latin American domestic and sex workers in London, which will be published shortly by Oxford University Press. This extract is published in AOTC by kind permission of the publishers and the author.]

Early in my fieldwork, I was invited to the places where my informants lived. In most cases, women only experienced privacy and intimacy within their bedrooms. The lack of a space that women could call home, a space where they could live, either alone or with their families, instead of having to share it with strangers, was an important source of personal anxiety, insecurity, and social decline. Room doors were the entrances to their “homes” and were kept locked at all times to protect both their belongings and their privacy. The women, who generally worked eight to ten hours a day, did not spend much time at home. Therefore, they generally did not interact with the other inhabitants of the flats and houses where they lived, unless they shared a bedroom with a stranger or met their flatmates in common areas such as the kitchen or the bathroom. In most cases they lived among other Latin American migrants because they tended to look for flats where people would at least speak the same language or have a similar cultural background.

Women were eager to explain to me that this place was not their real home and that they did not enjoy their current living arrangements, because they knew “what home really was.” What did home mean to them? Whenever I asked this question, women would usually explain that home—a real home—was not supposed to be shared with strangers. “Back in Bolivia no one lives with strangers, everyone lives with their family. Everyone, even poor people, has a home. It may be small and humble or big and fancy, but we all have a house,” Lourdes told me. Home was described as a site for the reproduction of family, and homeownership was considered not only a marker of social status but also constitutive of their middle-class identities. Many of my informants had lost their homes back in their own countries because of structural conditions of unemployment, which in turn provoked situations of indebtedness, mortgages, and foreclosures. Now, they all wished for a home in which they could cultivate family relations and feel secure, comfortable, and rooted.

Such notions of home echo those discussed in social science literature, which, despite some disagreement, continues to see home as a place of respite and tranquility. Home has been described and understood as a space where people can rest, withdraw from the world outside, and have some control over what happens in their lives (Seamon, quoted in Cresswell 2005, 24) or as the center of meaning and a field of care (Tuan 1977). While my informants’ descriptions and meanings of home resonated with these quintessential and traditional notions of home, the reality of their lives in London contradicted them. As de Lauretis (1986) and Martin and Mohanty (1997) have discussed, home is not necessarily experienced as a place of care and rootedness. Not all groups experience home in the same way; on the contrary, gender, race, and age are conditions that deeply affect the way in which home is perceived and lived. Furthermore, for those who live under the uncertainty of an insecure legal status, low-income jobs, and precarious housing conditions, home can become a site of uneasiness, anxiety, discomfort, and potential conflict.

These conditions pushed women like Eva to do everything they could to construct a home in London. Eva had come to London with the belief that people could more easily obtain housing through social benefits in England than in other countries in Europe. After the many evenings that we spent together filling out the necessary forms for housing benefits, Eva’s belief was confirmed: within just three months of submitting the paperwork she was able to move into a one-bedroom flat in south London with her daughter, Maria. The need to have a proper home was grounded in Eva’s idea of developing and securing what she called a normal family life in London and had taken shape well before she applied for the housing benefit. “I came to London for good. I do not want to go back to Spain or Peru—I want to construct a home here in London. This is the place where I can actually achieve that dream,” Eva told me.

When I first visited Eva’s house, she showed me some of the things she had bought for her future home. In her room in south London there were two single beds, a wardrobe, an old desk, a small table, and an old-fashioned chair. The beds had matching duvets, cushions, and pillows coordinated with the purple and pink motifs decorating the room. Eva was meticulous about the decoration of her room because she wanted to create a pretty space for herself and her daughter, even though, as she often lamented, it was “only a room.”[1] Eva’s room also contained two antique tables and a chair, clashing with the purple and pink theme. She had bought these pieces of furniture for the living room of her future home. “They only cost me £20 each. Look how beautiful they are, they look really refined and expensive, they are antiques,” she said.

Eva’s imaginative construction of her future home took place during the weekends when we visited car boot sales, shopped at TK Maxx, or went window shopping around London. Every time we went to TK Maxx, Eva sighed with melancholy as she looked at the decorations she wanted but could not afford. She developed narratives and detailed descriptions of her future home through the different objects that we saw in the aisles of the shop. A lamp, vase, or teapot was a reminder of the things that she left behind in Madrid. These objects were simultaneously remembrances of things past and signs of a future in which she thought she would be able to achieve her dream of having a home for herself and her daughter. She believed that, in addition to obtaining the housing benefits, in the future she might be able to be allocated a council flat in London.

In a similar vein, Mariana was constantly haunted by the things she had left behind in Perugia, Italy, to come to London. “I had a home there. I bought all these things when I got married, I had an espresso machine, duvet covers, plates, glasses, everything; it was a real home with my husband,” she told me. These things provided a source of comfort and a sense of belonging[2]; they represented Mariana’s appropriation of the world outside and at the same time were a reflection of her ideas and aspirations toward her future as a married woman. Although the flat in Perugia had been a temporary home, it had been constructed through her relationship with Ricardo and the gendered roles they shared in the production of the space, where she was the carer in the household and Ricardo was the breadwinner. Mariana had left Brazil broken-hearted and feeling like a spinster because most of her friends were getting married; therefore, her married life in Italy enabled her to gain some transnational status. In contrast to London, in Italy she had been a successful migrant who had a home, carried an Italian passport (by claiming ancestry), spoke the language, and, more important, did not have to work in a menial job.

Mariana’s desire to have a home in London was temporarily appeased by skimming through the pages of the IKEA catalog and constructing narratives of the future. “I need to have a house with my husband just like I had in Italy. I need to feel that I have something more than just this humiliating work and this lonely life. I need to feel normal again,” she constantly told me. Mariana’s parameters of normality coveted the idea of having a place she could come to every night after work, talk about her day with her husband, cook for him, watch television, and relax instead of having to cohabit in a house with strangers.

Sabrina, too, withdrew from the present by planning and imagining her future home, particularly when she flipped through the pages of the Argos catalog and described to me the things that she liked, the things she wanted for her loved ones, and why they were such excellent value. Sabrina set herself the goal of saving 1 million Reales (approximately £300,000), and every evening she assiduously recorded her daily income and expenditures in her diary. Each page of her diary bore witness to her life as a sex worker in London. More important, the process of writing down her daily finances provided her with the opportunity to imagine the near future, a future that included the purchase of a home for her loved ones.

Making a Caring Home

The imagination of home was followed by its material and symbolic construction. This entailed a careful assemblage of cultural capital and a particular taste that would reflect women’s desired class membership and lifestyle. Like Silvia Fehérváry’s (2002, 2011) informants in postsocialist Hungary, my informants’ ideal lifestyles were grounded in what they described as symbols of modernity, middle-class respectability, and normality, such as western European homes and appliances. “Look at the things you can buy in IKEA, everything looks so modern and well-designed. It is possible to have home with nice modern things. Back in Bolivia you would never be able to access things like these,” Jovanna told me.[3] Furthermore, the desire to acquire a modern middle-class lifestyle turned women into thoughtful consumers who tried to find a balance between recreating a sense of distinction and fulfilling obligations to family.

Anthropology has long recognized the importance that consumption and material goods have in the construction and maintenance of social relations and the reproduction of meaningful differences between social groups. Marshall Sahlins started the debate by explaining how people make symbolic statements through consumption (1976). He explained that the symbolic differences between objects produce and reproduce “the meaningful differences between” social groups (1976, 181). Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood (1978) were also interested in the symbolic meaning of objects but were more concerned about the relationship between the meaning of commodities and people’s active engagements with them through different social practices. Later, Pierre Bourdieu (1984) moved beyond the individual and understood consumption and taste as social practices embedded in structural class relations. Following these approaches, Daniel Miller, among others, has given detailed ethnographic attention to the lives and practices of consumers and the ways in which people appropriate market goods and imbue them with meaning (1995a, 1995b, 1998).

Here I adopt an approach to consumption and material culture that, like Bourdieu’s, highlights the class orientation of individuals through notions of taste. I explore the meanings and values that people give to objects to make sense of their social worlds. Such value, as Bourdieu explains, is rooted in people’s social and cultural capitals and indexed by a sense of taste that inevitably produces social distinctions in society (1984, 174).[4] For Bourdieu, the different choices that people make are all distinctions, that is, choices made in opposition to those made by other classes. These choices reflect the position within a class system and create a system of power relations in which minute distinctions of taste become the basis for social judgment. Rather than limiting the analysis to status-seeking goals or seeing consumption as only an expression of identity and lifestyle,[5] I locate women’s practices within a wider context of migration and analyze how these practices are linked to women’s personhood and social relationships. Consumption becomes a process whereby women imbue objects with meanings that help them to (re)construct social relationships, signaling social statuses and (re)configuring aspects of their migrants’ subjectivities. Although the objects themselves are an important part of the analysis, my specific interest is in consumption as a process whereby women realized—or (re)invented—themselves as middle-class people. These matters bear witness to Miller’s observation that “consumption has become the main arena in which and through which people have to struggle towards control over the definition of themselves and their values” (1995a, 277).

Taking into account these theoretical underpinnings, let me go back to the moment Eva received the news from the Council Office about the successful outcome of her housing benefit application. Once she got the approval, she immediately started planning the construction of her home. The enterprise of choosing things for the new house, albeit constrained by her limited economic resources, was nonetheless carefully crafted. Her plan included a careful appreciation of used and secondhand goods that signified and could project her middle-class taste. She considered the Battersea car boot sale on the South Bank one of the best places to find secondhand objects because it was where better-off people, that is, white British people, sold their things.

During our visit to Battersea, Eva would classify the sellers, as well as the goods for sale, using her own criteria for what she considered good porcelain, ceramics, antiques, and clothes. It would take hours for her to decide what she wanted to buy because she first needed to calculate very carefully the amount of money she wanted to spend. Usually, the things she ended up buying were not only things that she needed, but also things that she considered sophisticated enough for her taste. After a few weeks of visiting the market together, she managed to buy a complete set of silverware cutlery and a set of old English porcelain dishware for four people. With pride, she showed me the old plates and the forks that had old insignias and emblems, a feature that automatically granted these objects a sense of distinction. They were signs of what she idealized as a middle-class, white, European taste—a taste she had cultivated after years of working in a rich household in Madrid.

Conspicuous consumption practices were recurrent among many of my informants, who accumulated a great amount of stuff—particularly clothes, which were packed in plastic bags waiting to be sent back to their home countries. For Angelica, the accumulation of things represented the future possibility of reconnecting with her daughter, even though her unstable working life in London did not allow her to go back to Brazil. Yet, within her precarious living conditions, Angelica’s extravagance mitigated some of the discomforts that she experienced resulting from a previous deportation from Portugal and her current undocumented status. These experiences had important repercussions for the ways in which she perceived her present and future life. Accordingly, she had an immediate, seize the day approach to life and to consumption. Accumulation seemed to mean more to her than just ownership of things; it was a way to deal with the alienation she experienced on an everyday basis. In her ethnographic study on prostitution in Mexico, Patty Kelly explains that although women in sex work lose the worth ascribed to “respectable” women by ascending the economic ladder, they experience a new kind of worth associated not with gender, but with class (2008, 190). Women like Angelica were able to use shopping as a way to perform middle-class taste and, in the process, partially mitigate the stigma and anxieties produced by selling sex. There were two dimensions to Angelica’s consumption practices. The first was the personal dimension, which responded to her desire to obtain things for herself and for her family. The second dimension was of conspicuous shopping for the sake of accumulation. This inclination to accumulate was intimately linked to the need to make place—although temporarily—in London. Both dimensions were directed at the creation of normality and also eased Angelica’s deep-seated anxiety about her uncertain future.

The room in west London where Angelica lived until June 2010 was packed with things, including televisions, videos, shoes, clothes, and beauty products. Angelica’s world (her room) was filled with items she had acquired over the three years that she had spent in London. Her shopping practices were mapped around secondhand shops located in affluent neighborhoods of the city, which she preferred because they offered better-quality items. She was thrilled every time she found clothes that were of good quality and sophisticated while also being cheap, especially if these were intended as gifts for her daughter and family.

However, the dream of bringing or sending the items back to Brazil was not currently possible for Angelica. In the meantime, she used things to construct a sense of permanence in the face of her nomadic lifestyle. The more she bought, the better she felt about her living space. In addition to accruing more and more things, she enjoyed organizing and reorganizing them in the room. Rearranging the room triggered memories of the things she was forced to leave behind in Portugal because of her deportation. Those things were lost forever; they were ghosts that resurfaced through the new things she bought in London. In the event of future deportation, she did not want to lose what she had accumulated in London, so this time she had a plan. “Everything is packed in air-sealed plastic bags with a list attached to it. In case something happens to me, my friend Romina will send them to Brazil. I have already saved a little bit of money for that,” she explained to me while showing me the bags. Through these place-making practices she reconstructed the narrative of her life as a migrant. She seemed to be trapped between the past (memories of things), the present (accumulation of things), and the future (when she would finally be able to send those things back to Brazil).

The imaginative and physical processes that shaped the women’s homemaking practices were intertwined with their middle-class subjectivities and social aspirations. They not only allowed the women to accumulate and articulate their cultural capital, but also reflected their ambitions and projections of ideal social relations. The things that they acquired had a value beyond the material one: they will (re)construct home, the vital site for the performance of gender roles and the maintenance of kinship relationships. In this regard, there was something meaning-making about the very process of shopping. They were performing care—they were contributing to the family and asserting kinship roles and female obligations that they had not properly performed in recent years and, as a result, were reconstructing a sense of self. The salience of home as a utopian space where women would recuperate what they had lost confirms that, even at a distance, women are regarded as responsible for erecting it through their caring labor and for signifying the social identity of the family.

Relocating the Real Self through Idioms of Distinction

The need to recreate a sense of permanence and normality was, for some women, appeased through plans to construct a home. However, for those women whose plans did not include a home, the recreation of a sense of normality took different forms and meanings. Instead of buying things for the family, these women used consumption, as well as idioms of fashion, to invest in themselves, prove their class identities, and distinguish themselves from other migrants. Luciana thought that people who, for example, bought fake branded items had bad taste. “Since I have been in London I have never bought shoes other than the MBT fitness shoes, I do not care if I spend more than £100 on a pair.” She claimed that MBT were the original fitness shoes and that she could never buy a cheap knock-off. For her, buying expensive, “genuine” shoes was part of the definition of herself as different from the cleaners she worked with; she was not a real cleaner, but an artist who was temporarily engaging in menial labor to have more time for her art.

I saw Luciana’s fixation with such shoes when I visited her tiny studio flat, where she had several pairs of MBT shoes stored in various boxes. The flat was full of things—there was hardly any space to move—but she was proud to have a place that she did not have to share with other people, especially other migrants. Despite the lack of space, Luciana had inhabited the place in an extraordinary way with shoes and clothes and with her art, what she called her nonpaintings. These nonpaintings were collages composed of scraps from magazines and books that she glued together to compose scenes or landscapes. She pasted these scraps using the logic of perspective, creating fantastic scenes where the various images overlapped each other. Her art was influenced by different Renaissance, Baroque, and Romantic painters; while we looked at her art pieces, she enjoyed explaining the technique to me and the different artistic influences. Such conversations displayed Luciana’s cultural and symbolic capital and sense of taste. Her taste for shoes and her artistic sophistication built up her cultural capital, providing evidence of the contrast that existed between herself and others.

In a similar vein, as an entrepreneur who had worked in real estate back in Venezuela and Madrid, Amelia was deeply humiliated and resentful about being a domestic worker in London. As was the case for most of my informants, her middle-class identity was based on her position within the labor market in her country of origin. Having lost this position, she found a way to ameliorate some of these tensions by spending most of her free time shopping at TK Maxx, secondhand shops in South Kensington in west London, and car boot sales with her friend Eva. Although she was €25,000 in debt, she was forever telling me that spending £10 or £50 would not make any real difference to her financial situation (for indebted consumers, see Lehtonen 1999). “It does not make a difference if I buy a coffee, or get fancy organic bread at Whole Foods Market, or if occasionally I buy a nice shirt at TK Maxx. Spending a few pounds here and there will not make me poorer, but they do make me feel less of a maid,” she told me.

During our visits to TK Maxx, Amelia created narratives of taste and distinction through branded items. She usually focused her attention on signature accessories that held a special significance because of the social status that these things exemplified in Venezuela. Shopping at the brand discount store TK Maxx represented for most of my informants the paradise of the democratization of fashion. Bourdieu (1984) claims that the price devaluation of fashion diminishes its power of distinction for middle-class people like my informants. However, price devaluation allowed partial access to a world of distinction that otherwise only belonged to the rich. Although the women were aware that these were discounted items, the value resided in the brands that they considered sophisticated enough for their taste. “Here in London I can buy things that would have taken me years to buy back in Brazil,” said Juliana. Cheap but signature items were the best possible combination to match their middle-class aspirational taste.

While walking through the aisles, Amelia often stopped in front of the sunglass section and tried on at least twenty pairs. “Look Ana, I look like a posh woman from South Kensington, not like a cachifa (maid) from London,” she said. She liked to explain to Eva and me that people made the mistake of buying sunglasses just for the sake of showing off the brand, although the glasses often did not fit the shape of their faces. According to Amelia, the need to show off branded goods, without taking into account the intangible aspects of fashion, was irrefutable evidence of bad taste, a lack of distinction and class. As Mark Liechty explains in the case of middle-class taste and fashion in Nepal, “the notion of fashion ‘suitability’ is a characteristically middle-class sensibility,” so the fact that Amelia wanted to display her fashion knowledge, as an acquired and embodied knowledge, “helps to naturalize middle-class privilege and ensures that fashion is not only the province of the rich” (2003, 110). Through the idiom of fashion as a form of symbolic capital, Amelia was performing a social class she felt she rightly belonged to, regardless of her current precarious situation in London.

Bad taste and lack of distinction were also linked to people’s racial and ethnic identities. Many of my informants relentlessly and persistently classified other people by judging their fashion styles interweaved with their skin color. While standing on the second floor of a shopping center in south London (regarded as a Latin American enclave), Vanessa and Barbara (both from Colombia) often enjoyed guessing people’s nationalities by way of analyzing their style of dress and “lack of taste.” Yet this lack of taste correlated with their prejudices and ideas of race/ethnicity and beauty. People with indigenous looks, “those cholitas,” for instance (as Barbara called women from Bolivia who looked indigenous), were simply not able to look good in jeans. “It does not really matter what they wear, they cannot get rid of their indigenous look,” she told me while pointing at a woman passing by. “I think it comes down to the anatomy, the type of body—with ample hips, flat bottoms and prominent bellies it is difficult to look good in tight jeans,” Vanessa reiterated. The whiter people were, the better they could pull off clothes and style. Using phrases like “they just cannot help it,” their racial judgments spoke of wider cultural notions around inferior, fixed racial traits that stand in opposition to the mainstream white, “superior” traits. These notions confirm what Peter Wade explains as the key to race in Latin America, that is, “that racism and mixture coexist and interweave,” (2008, 179) creating societies in which categories such as black and indigenous exist and are part of the national imaginary. Yet, because modernity, development, and high status are often associated with whiteness or at least mixedness, people with lighter skin automatically place themselves at the top of the racial pyramid. People like Vanessa and Barbara, who self-identified as white, did not find it problematic to judge people’s taste based on racial traits. After all, they might have been Latin Americans, but according to their own national and racial classifications they were whiter than other Latin Americans.

Locating the Normal through Sociality

Fashion and the display of cultural capital was not the only medium that women used to recompose their sense of self and class location. Social events and gatherings were also situations in which they could embark on a battle for distinction. In November 2009, I was invited to have lunch at Amelia’s flat. She opened the door of the basement flat where she lived and worked in west London, receiving me with a big smile and a hug. “Bienvenida a mi humilde hogar” (Welcome to my humble home), she told me while laughing at the irony of welcoming me to the mansion of her rich employers. She asked me to come in and introduced me to a nicely dressed group of women who were sitting together around the kitchen bar table where there were wine, olives, cheese, chips, and other nibbles. “This is Ana, my friend from Mexico, she is an anthropologist and is doing a PhD in London. She is doing a study on women like us, cachifas (maids).” Amelia and Eva knew each other from Madrid and had met Rosa and Cristina at the church in South Kensington where they were all looking for jobs. This was the first time I had met Cristina and Rosa. After I had explained what anthropologists do, the women told me where they came from and what they did in London. In the meantime, Amelia was cooking Venezuelan arepas (thick corn flour tortillas) and passing them around for us to eat. I sat next to Eva, who passed me a plate with an arepa that Amelia had just prepared for me. While eating the arepas, the women began talk about their own national foods and how much they missed them.

This was the first time I had spent time with the women as a group. The encounter gave me the opportunity to see them outside their everyday working activities and in interaction with each other. Getting together for lunch at Amelia’s house felt, for Rosa, “as if I were back in Peru or even Spain with my friends having coffee.” The place was not Amelia’s, but on this specific Sunday she had the permission of the jefa (female employer) to invite some friends over on her day off. Amelia lived at her employer’s house in a basement flat where she had a tiny kitchen, bathroom, one bed, and a sofa. Despite her employer’s restrictions and rules concerning the use of the space, Amelia had added some personal touches to the room by setting out photographs of her family and rearranging the furniture.[6] The space, the food, and the company created a sense of normality that women longed for while working as live-in domestic workers.

Conversation soon turned to their families back home, including matters such as the recent death of Cristina’s brother in Ecuador. When the tone of the conversation turned sad and nostalgic, Amelia decided to elevate the mood of the party and put on some music for us to dance and forget our sorrows. She explained that she had a marvelous party music mix from her son’s wedding in Spain that would definitely lift the spirits of the gathering. To the rhythms of reggaeton, Cristina stood up and showed us her “sexy reggaeton moves,” as she called them, to encourage the others to join her on the dance floor. Dancing reminded Cristina of her youth in Ecuador where she would spend all night in disco bars. With the music at full volume, Rosa and Amelia joined Cristina.

Amid the dancing and laughing, Amelia told us about her son’s wedding, claiming that it had been a very elegant event for which no expense had been spared. Later I became aware that she had gone further into debt because of the wedding, hindering her plans of going back to Venezuela to her normal life. When the song was over, she appeared at the table with a big fancy box containing the photo album and DVD of the wedding. The velvet box contained a plastic leather album with a sepia cover photo of the couple. Amelia’s son was in coattails, while her daughter-in-law wore a white wedding dress with a long train and was crowned with a tiara. Amelia’s outfit, which was approved by her guests, featured a long red satin dress complemented by a traditional Spanish peineta (decorative headdress) and a long, embroidered mantle. “This dress is a traditional outfit from Spain that women use for special occasions,” she told us. In addition to showing the photos, she played the DVD for us so we could understand and appreciate the event in all its splendor. During the video Amelia talked about her life and about the people who composed her earlier life in Venezuela. By sharing these aspects of herself with other women she was actively reconstituting her affected status and temporarily regaining some respectability in the eyes of others who experienced similar dislocations and longed for the reconstruction of normality.


Women’s everyday efforts were channeled into the artificial reconstruction of what they called the normal, which was in constant contradiction with their lives in London. The struggle to recuperate a sense of normality must be understood in relation to the aspirations women placed on the migration project and the future; it should not be understood as an exact or real reflection of their past lives. Who they really were was a constant self-definition women performed and constructed on an everyday basis to differentiate themselves from others. In his analysis of aspiration among the middle classes in Egypt, Samuli Schielke (2012) examines the role that the temporality of the future had in people’s sense of aspiration, frustration, migration, and consumption. He explains how among those whose resources are limited, “daily life becomes a breathless race to keep up with the demands of the future” (2012, 53). Among my informants the present was never good enough; it was a temporary trap with money yet to be made, houses to be bought or built, children to be educated, and debts to be paid. Living in the future and constructing their present lives as an attempt to achieve their dreams provided women with a perpetual aspiration for a better life.

The stories presented here described the efforts women made to reconstitute their class, status, and disrupted subjectivities, while at the same generating new ones. The attention to workers’ consumption practices and sociality points to the cultural conflicts involved in migrant labor, but as Mary Beth Mills has argued, it is also “an important arena wherein women can mobilize dominant symbols and meanings to serve their own interests and to stretch, if only temporarily, the limits of their subordination within the wider society” (1997, 54). In this regard, the practices of consumption and sociality that I have described might appear as detached from the political. However, women were not only trying to make home nice—because of their lack of entitlements and rights—but also trying to insert themselves in new class locations. Through various normalizing practices such as acquiring commodities and displaying a sense of distinction and taste, women were able to reconstruct themselves as caring mothers reasserting their sense of real selves. Although a self appears to be a seemingly private, contained thing, it proves to be always in flux and influenced by internal and external factors.



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Wilks, Richard. 1989. Houses as Consumer Goods: Social Processes and Allocation Decisions. In Henry J Ruiz and and Benjamin S. Orlove (eds.). The Social Economy of Consumption. 6. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

  1. [1]See Ramphele (1993) for extreme notions of home.
  2. [2]Daniel Miller has provided important theoretical insights into and ethnographic examples of the role that material culture has in the space of home in regard to providing a sense of comfort and how things represent and reflect the social world in the private domain (Miller 2001, 2008).
  3. [3]For studies on middle-class people’s experiences and notions of normality, see Fehérváry (2002, 2011), Berdahl (1999), and Patico (2008).
  4. [4]Taste, for Bourdieu, is a reflection of the interrelation between his three dimensions of social life: the economic, the cultural, and the educational. It is “the propensity and capacity to appropriate (materially or symbolically) a given class of classified, classifying objects or practices, is the generative formula of life-style, a unitary set of distinctive preferences which express the same expressive intention in the specific logic of each of the symbolic sub-spaces, furniture, clothing, language or body hexis” (Bourdieu 1984, 173).
  5. [5]For approaches to consumption as status seeking, see Campbell (1994), McCracken (1990), Heyman (1994), and Wilks (1989). For approach to consumption as an expression of a lifestyle, see Featherstone (1990) and Shields (1992).
  6. [6]For similar strategies regarding the making of home in working spaces among live-in domestic workers, see Geraldine Pratt (1997), who worked with Philippine migrants in Vancouver.

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