Everyday we’re exposed to different cultures, and sometimes, without even realizing it. The place we were born, the country we live in, our family background, the people we meet, are some of the factors that influence our behavior, knowledge and beliefs. Maybe it’s only when we move to another country or get in touch with a foreigner, that we realize all those cultural differences showed by cultural artifacts.
For this assignment I had to think about a cultural artifact that has some power and influence in my life. The first thing I thought about was my family. They’re probably the ones who influence me the most, not only because they raised me according to their own values but also because they support me in many different ways. Immediately after thinking about family, I thought about “Home”. I will focus this entry on the topic “A House is not a Home” and explore the different meanings and associations regarding different cultures.
What are the contemporary meanings encoded in this?
If we think of a “house” what is the first thing that occurs to our minds? While I may think of a structure of walls, with windows and a door, someone from an African tribe may think of something different. However, almost everyone thinks of a House as a place to live. This is because even though we’re from different cultures, we share some of the same meanings. Now if we think about “Home” does the same thing occur? Do we think of a place to live?
House vs Home
When I first arrived in Klagenfurt I was taking pictures of houses on the street (first image), because they looked a bit different from the ones in my country – Portugal. However, I still recognized it as a house, a place where people live, but for me, it didn’t mean more than that. The second picture, is a image I found on the internet, after doing some research of the word “home”. While house is a very obvious cultural artifact (even though it may look different, but overall has the same purpose of existence), home is a more subjective artifact. Everyone can have a different meaning for what home is.
Where do the meanings I associate with these meanings come from?
The meanings associated with house are pretty obvious. A house is something present in our life since the day we’re born, we need a place to live. Throughout our life we can move from a city to another, from country to country, but we usually move to another house. So these meanings come from society’s ideas of the “true nature” of this. But where do the meanings we associate of home come from? In my opinion, they come mostly from personal experience and observations of life. This takes me back to the introduction of this journal entry. For me, “home” is where and when I’m with my family. Doesn’t matter if we live in an hotel, in an apartment or in a big house, home will always be when I’m with them. When I went to college I had to move to another city and I would only come back to my “hometown” on weekends. Every friday I would say that I was going home, but what exactly did I mean by home? Indirectly it was the place I lived with my parents and sister, but the true meaning was going where they were. To understand a little better where do these meanings come from and if they’re influenced by our culture, I asked three persons from different backgrounds.
Interactivity / Collaboration
I used the same method with the three persons. First I asked them to think of a house, and then to think of “a” home. I asked if it was the same thing and then what were the meanings and associations behind it.
The first person is an erasmus student from Latvia. Her concept of a house was very similar to the one I described above, but when it came to “home”, she had a totally different point of view. She told me that she was born in a small town called Cēsis and after 10 years she moved to Jūrmala, a city close to the capital, Riga. Even though she has been living there for a long time, 11 years, for her, home will always be her house in Cēsis. She described it as the place where she learned about nature, appreciate music, sports and art. When she moved to Jurmala, she moved to a flat and that was immediately the negative side of it: she didn’t have the chance to stay in touch with the nature, she had to stay inside. So in general she describes home as “my best memories from Cēsis, first loves, my room, my spot in garden, my friends, my school and everything. Cēsis is one of most beautiful cities in Latvia so I’m proud to come from there. Cēsis is where I come from, is my home”. She used this song to express her vision, quoting that specific lyrics:
Oh this is the greatest peace I’ve ever known
Oh, little love makes house a home
This house is home.
The second person is a friend of mine who is a flight assistant. Since she has to travel a lot and stay in different places all the time, I decided to e-mail her to understand what her point of view was. First she described a house as a place to live, either alone, with family or friends. Then she told that, because of her job, she couldn’t feel stuck to a place to call home, so she had to find a solution. “Every time I travel, I take with me something from the house where I grew up, and place it in every hotel room that I stay. It makes me feel at home, because I have something familiar with me, and something that I associate with my life”. She then quoted a song saying: “It’s not a homeless life for me, it’s just that I’m home less than I’d like to be“.
Finally, the third and last person that I talked to is a graduate student from Portugal who is currently living in London. His definition of house was that “it is a place where people can live. A random space where whether they feel good or not, is their shelter.” On the other hand, for him “home is our personal space. Something that is only ours, where we should feel protected. Ours and nobody else’s”. He even added that for him “home is where I’m with my family, or where I feel protected, where I know I’ll always be safe”. Overall, he sees home as a place where his memories are.
From the previous examples, I think it is possible to say that “Home” is seen as something very personal and that varies from person to person, according to their own personal experiences. Home is definitely a cultural artifact, but I think House is one as well. All the different persons described me a different house. It had the same purposes, and it was similar, but it was always different. Even I thought austrian houses were worth a picture because they were different from portuguese’s.
Multifaceted critical pastiche
Throughout the years, house has been an artifact linked to the women’s role in the family and society. It was believed that women should stay in the house raising the kids and doing the domestic chores. Within the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts, Judy Chicago and her students came up with a project called: WomanHouse.
The age-old female activity of homemaking was taken to fantasy proportions. Womanhouse became the repository of the daydreams women have as they wash, bake, cook, sew, clean and iron their lives away. – http://womanhouse.refugia.net/
It is possible to find in today’s world people who still have sexist ideas towards women. The house can be seen as a patriarchal example, once people associate it as being the women’s job. I had a philosophy teacher, who was a true feminist, that once said: “A country should be organized the same way a woman organizes her house. A mother always protects her children, specially the defenseless ones, and a country should work in the same way, always protect the poor and defenseless people”. In my opinion it is quite true, a house can be seen as a system, just like a country.
I also used google to search for images of “house” and “home” and the results were almost the same, except that for “home” there were a lot of icons that are used in websites to illustrate the main page. It is curious that home has another meaning, related to the technology industry. It just shows how our society is becoming more and more standardized and technological. I wonder if this will have impact in our lives regarding these two concepts of house and home.