Refracted Input

Clare O’Farrell’s blog on books, TV, films, Michel Foucault, universities etc. etc.

Often the notion of home and living space are conflated, but they are by no means the same thing. ‘Home’ is paradoxically an utterly ambiguous and floating notion. Is it one’s designated ‘place of residence’, the parents’ home or place of origin, the nation state where one currently lives or was located in the past? Is it a specific and very local geographical area, a local community, a workplace (for example a university office), or can one’s most intimate sense of home be found in a heterotopia?

Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942

I find the notion of heterotopic space as home in opposition to what is usually thought of as ‘home’ to be of particular interest: something that would bear further thought and reflection. Alain de Botton talks about this feeling of home in what are effectively heterotopic spaces:

Our homes do not have to offer us permanent occupancy or store our clothes to merit the name. Home can be an airport or a library, a garden or a hotel. […]

There is no necessary connection between the concepts of home and of prettiness. One can feel at home in a place which is very unhomely – such as a diner or a motorway café with others similarly lost in thought, similarly distanced from society: a common isolation with the beneficial effect of lessening the oppressive sense within a person that they are alone in being alone. The very lack of domesticity, the bright lights and anonymous furniture can be a relief from what may be the false comforts of a so-called home. What we call a home is merely any place that succeeds in making more consistently available to us the important truths which the wider world ignores, or which our distracted and irresolute selves have trouble holding on to.

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