House Life: Space, Place, and Family in Europe

House Life: Space, Place, and Family in Europe

House Life: Space, Place, and Family in Europe

House Life: Space, Place, and Family in Europe


This book, which fills a gap on the materiality of lived relations, examines households within the context of their immediate physical surroundings of home and shows how human interactions are reflected in built forms. Houses are dynamic participants in family life in many ways. They often pre-date the origins and outlast the life spans of their inhabitants, but they can exert a powerful influence on the organization of behaviors and the values of family members, as well as on the forms and flows of family life across the generations. Constituting wealth, investment, security and inheritance, they are an objective in and of themselves in many domestic strategies.Drawing on developments within anthropology, archaeology, architecture and social history, the authors demonstrate, through detailed case studies, how household or family relations can usefully be mined to re-situate social theory in both space and time. Space, boundaries, family cycles, historic changes, migration patterns, ethnicity, memory and gender are all interrogated for the light they shed on how people interact with the physical world around them and what this means culturally and symbolically. Europe is an especially rich focus for this kind of analysis because it is distinguished by its long, well-documented history and a recent period of intense change.


This book began as a panel for the 1992 meeting of the American Anthropological Association. the panel was organized by the two editors, who had met one another a year previously at a business meeting of the Society for the Anthropology of Europe. It was sae that sponsored the ensuing panel as an invited session – or, rather, as two invited sessions, one for oral papers and a second for poster papers. Two of those poster papers developed into contributions to the present book, and all but one of the original oral papers are also included.

Lawrence-Zuniga's and Birdwell-Pheasant's encounter was a fortuitous one, for we have learned much from one another – and from our contributing authors - through this shared project. in 1992, Lawrence-Zuniga's scholarly involvement with issues of the built environment was already one of long standing, while Birdwell-Pheasant's involvement had been more casual, entailing only a brief foray into the study of houses during fieldwork in Belize, Central America, during the 1970s. Birdwell-Pheasant was most deeply concerned with issues of the family.

Birdwell-Pheasant extends her thanks to Robert Moulton and Lamar University for assistance in defraying some of the costs of production of this manuscript. She also thanks her children, Brendan and Rebecca, for their patience and support when deadlines loomed and Mom had to post “Do Not Disturb” signs on the door.

Lawrence-Zuniga gratefully acknowledges the infectious enthusiasm of California Polytechnic-Pomona architecture students committed to the exercise of threedimensional thinking and skillful rendering of the built environment in two dimensions. in particular, the contributions of Dana Hendrix, Carmen Manriquez, Silke Metzler, Lisa Teichgraeber, and Chunni Thai were indispensable to the task of making house forms a visual reality. Thanks also go to Dan Lawrence for the continuing education in architecture, and to husband, Richard, and son, Scott, for their patience and moral support.

We would like to thank all our authors for their scholarship and insights, which gave this book life. Their diligent efforts in undertaking several rewrites and their supreme patience in dealing with two editors – one in Texas, one in California are also to be commended. the present work also benefited from the helpful comments of Tamara Hareven, who was a discussant on the original panel at the aaa, and anonymous reviewers. Finally, we would like to thank all those wonderful people who brought us email and the fax machine, two inventions that make collaborative scholarship across considerable geographical distance a feasible project.

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