Rachel Fuller

Research Group: Modern Interiors Research Centre
Award studied: PhD

Project title

Furnishing the self: encounters with homemaking in contemporary London middle-class homes

Abstract

Home is a key site of intensive consumption and emotional investment in identity. Possessions in the home and our interactions with them are integral to our experience and construction of who we are in the world. We make our interior landscape visible to ourselves and onlookers through our choice of objects, arrangements and practices. And yet insight into the lived experience of everyday homemaking is elusive. This calls for empirical research to engage directly with the subjective world of individuals.

My thesis examines an archive of rich experiential data gathered in informal conversations conducted with homemakers in twenty-five middle-class London homes. Their narrations of subjective experience have been used to explore how people think and feel about their homes, and how and why they arrange certain things in certain ways within those homes.

Identity is understood as a storied accomplishment and homemaking is formulated as one means of organizing experience. Material is part of self-representation and is regarded as a narrative resource. My reading of narratives and images in the light of this conceptualisation reveals the meaning in the object and the object in the narrative. The thesis seeks to demonstrate the endeavour of homemaking as a form of creative production that is empowered by individual agency and fuelled by storying intention.

This thesis contributes to a growing literature on identity and the home. The study's findings enrich understandings of the way people organize the material culture of their homes, and the way objects and practices are drawn into their self-storying. The study reveals the agency in homemaking as a creative practice and highlights the particularity of homemaking experience. It expands the context for understanding the creative work of designing and producing the contemporary home.

Key words

Identity, subjectivity, lived experience, agency, narrative self, storying, meaning, home, things, homemaking.

Supervisors

  • Fran Lloyd (Director of study)
  • Eleanor John, Head of Collections, The Geffrye Museum of the Home (external)
  • Professor Trevor Keeble, University of the Creative Arts (external)

Funding received

Arts and Humanities Research Council Collaborative Doctoral Award