HANNAH CLARKE and JANE ZAVISCA
University of Arizona, USA
Housing is among the most costly and significant of consumer possessions, as well as a staging ground for various consumption practices. Yet housing has been largely overlooked in consumption studies, perhaps because it occupies a liminal status between consumption and production. In market societies, housing is an investment with exchange value as well as a commodity with use value. The sense of housing as investment in turn fuels housing consumption, by providing a powerful rationale for spending and indebtedness in pursuit of the owner-occupied home.
Housing shares with other consumer commodities the potential to embody an extension of self, as well as to signal attachment to – or distinction from – a particular social group. The home and the practices of domesticity it engenders demarcate the boundaries between private and public, feminine and masculine, consumption and production. By providing a sense of privacy and control, the home satisfies the craving for ontological security that arose as modernity eroded the systems of kinship and transition that previously provided people with their sense of place in society (Dupuis and Thorns 1998).
Intensive consumption practices – and consumer spending – are required to transform the physical properties of a house into the cultural embodiment of a home, what McCracken (1989) refers to as “symbolic property,” reflecting ...