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.
Fast forward to 2017, and the text from that session was launched at the Brisbane IAG: Housing and Home Unbound: Intersections in Economics, Environment and Politics in Australia.
Critically engaging with the post-humanist turn, our aim was to extend the scope of who and what is gathered in the achievement of home, while also breaking down many conceptual boundaries between things and finance; the human and nonhuman; housing (as material institution) and home (as lived experience).
This includes the ways digital technologies and financial innovation are changing the way houses are bought, sold and spent, developed in chapters by Dallas Rogers, Fiona Allon and Jean Parker; and Laurence Murphy and Michael Rehm. Elizabeth Taylor also explores the ways that house prices (most of the time) include the cost of a car parking space, not only normalising and incentivising car ownership but contributing to unsustainable cities.
A second key theme we developed was that unbounding housing and home was not a retreat from unjust and unsustainable forms of political and economic power. Aidan Davison and Laurence Troy seek to recover the environmental externalities that are elided in the commodified environments of suburban owner-occupation and urban consolidation. Lorenzo Verancini examines the settler-colonial impulse of tiny homes and Michelle Gabriel, Millie Rooney and Phillippa Watson look at the socio-economic implications of decarbonisation.
Finally, we wanted to explore the emergent qualities of housing and home despite political constraints. Louise and I highlighted the already diverse ways of dwelling that characterise Australian cities and localities; and the ways in which institutions of housing and home can better enable this diversity. These chapters also examine the roles of residents and social movements in fostering urban policy innovation. This section also features a reflection on the everyday innovation and experimentation in interstitial spaces that fortifies households in environmentally and socially fragile settings by Wendy Steele and Cathy Keys and the possibility of dwelling enabled by the paradoxical loss of home in fire by Katrina Schlunke.
Throughout the book, evocative images from Andrew Gorman-Murrays’ photographic work ‘Thrown-togetherness’ portray the constant movement of human and more than human entities that leave their trace but are never fully held in the domestic realm.
We are grateful to all the contributors for their fascinating and provocative engagements with the initial call, and their partnership in making this such a strong and coherent body of work. Along the way, we learnt that not all publishers have an affordable paperback in mind or will pay for colour images. But with a couple of projectors in a large empty lecture theatre, you can turn a wall into a gallery, to breathtaking effect. Our deepest thanks to Andrew Gorman-Murray for allowing us to do this at the launch at the IAG in Brisbane 2017. And if you missed it, you can pick up the black and white version in an ebook; or better still, ask your library to stump up for a few copies(!)
Nicole Cook is a Lecturer in Human Geography with the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities and AUSCCER. Her research interests include geographies of housing and home, cities, urban restructuring, and social and economic change.