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Panel 62. Homemaking in circulation: how urban residents construct the notion of home without the promise of homeownership


  • Liubing Xie, Berkeley College of Environmental Design, Ph.D. Candidate – City & Regional Planning


The housing question is a labor question, as noted by Engels (1872), but it is also much more. At a time of increasingly flexible and precarious labor markets around the globe, the aspiration towards a linear progression of obtaining homeownership and achieving social mobility is increasingly out of reach. The working classes are experiencing significant changes in the practices of homemaking, which I understand as the efforts of assembling social and material elements and constructing the notion of home. Urban residents circulate more in urban spaces and in between jobs, and housing practices without homeownership are becoming more common. Thus homemaking involves practices of constructing households and communities in a rather different temporality, which is well captured by the notion of “transitoriness” (Caldeira 2022).

Historically, in the early years of industrialization in various global North and global South countries, rental housing was the norm for workers. The fixing of workers through homeownership consequently became a strategy for producing docile and productive laboring classes (Holston 1991). However, after neoliberal policies in western countries and reforms in former socialist countries, people are now circulating more, migrating between rural and urban areas and between cities in search of jobs and housing. Housing practices are also changing in relation to circulation. For example, autoconstruction was dominant in Latin America, but now it is challenged by more diversified housing practices of rental housing and squatting; meanwhile, China’s informal rental market has become so significant that the government plans to regulate it.

Being constantly on the move also entails new strategies of homemaking beyond housing practices. An increasing population of urban dwellers circulate between rental housing and constructs the notion of home without the promise of homeownership. As Simone (2019) points out, “inhabiting becomes something different. It’s about your itineraries. It’s about arranging short-term stays”. Homemaking in circulation thus involves new strategies of constructing households, communities, and the very notion of home. Political mobilization in the nexus of housing and labor is inevitably reinvented. Moreover, the flexibility of housing practices without homeownership allows experimentation of new composition of households. The nuclear family model is challenged when family and household members separate spatially to diversify economic opportunities, and increasingly, people experiment with new household compositions like female-headed households. The notion of home is thus destabilized and restructured.

This panel thus asks the question: how do urban residents construct the notion of home without the promise of homeownership? How does constant circulation in space and in between jobs condition the new modes of collective life and political mobilization? The panel welcomes submissions from all disciplines and interdisciplinary endeavors, particularly projects with engrained ethnographic and/or historical investigations. We particularly welcome submissions that explore new modes of homemaking and collective life at a time when transitoriness becomes the norm across the global North and the global South. For example: how does circulation become a strategy to navigate temporal and spatial transitoriness? What are the new modes of housing strategies and political mobilization in concert with strategies of circulation? How are the notions of home and community reconstructed?

Centro de Estudios de Conflicto y Cohesión Social.

Diagonal Paraguay 257,
Torre 26, Oficina 1504
Santiago – RM

Los Navegantes 1963
Providencia – RM