Interstitial #1, Thrown-togetherness, 2015 Andrew Gorman-Murray
By Nicole Cook
In 2014, Louise Crabtree, Aidan Davison and I put out a call for papers for a session on housing and home at the Institution of Australian Geographers conference in Melbourne. We were interested in thinking about how socio-material and more-than-human geographies were changing the way that housing and home were being conceptualised, and what this meant for the politics of dwelling. These lenses had drawn our attention to many of the hidden and diverse elements gathered together in the achievement of home and the sometimes uncomfortable politics that these hidden geographies reveal: for instance in connecting owner-occupation in Australia to settler-colonialism. Among the many excellent abstracts that were submitted in response to the call, we had an email from editors at Routledge asking us if we would like to work with them to turn the session into an edited collection. We didn’t realise that editors often approach session organisers, or that we weren’t the only session to be targeted. So feeling slightly flattered, we decided we’d say yes and see how the journey unfolded.
The Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research (AUSCCER) is a teaching and research group focusing on cultural and social aspects of environmental issues. AUSCCER’s expertise and research is wide-ranging. Over the next few months we’ll introduce some of our academics and PhD candidates to give greater insight into AUSCCER’s work.
Sophie-May Kerr began her PhD with AUSCCER at the start of 2015. Here she answers questions about her research.
You’ve just begun your PhD candidature within AUSCCER. What is the focus of your PhD research?
I’m interested in social and environmental transformations that address high carbon and space-intensive urban lifestyles. In a climate changing world, one way in which cities are changing to accommodate for population growth and an increased demand in housing is through a shift towards urban consolidation. My goal is to inform understandings of sustainable urban living by examining sharing as a sustainable practice. My research will focus on the way urban residents share space (for instance, by living in apartments) and material resources (such as vehicles and household items). Responses to the challenges of urban population growth and carbon intensive lifestyles need to be grounded in an understanding of everyday life and efforts to increase rates of apartment-living must be informed by an understanding of how this mode of living can become socially sustainable. A key aspect of the research will be to consider how high-rise apartments might be made an attractive long-term residential option for a diverse population, including families. My research will focus on sustainability at the household level – understanding the everyday experiences of living in an apartment and the ways people consume material resources and inhabit spaces. I am interested in building form and layout and the strategies families have for making effective and efficient use of small spaces. An important part of this study will be exploring the discourses around raising children in apartments and the way this is portrayed, represented and stereotyped. Whilst living in apartments with children is not yet the norm in the Australian context, many cities around the world have high rates of apartment living, including families and there are no doubt lessons to be learned from these contexts.