Accepted paper:

The materiality of aspiration

Author:

Heather Horst (The University of Sydney)

Paper short abstract:

From the accumulation of building materials such as cement blocks, concrete, tiles, steel and paint to the analysis of investing in homes over other other life strategies, this paper examines the role of materiality in shaping, structuring and making evident possible futures.

Paper long abstract:

Within the discipline of anthropology the relationship between homes and aspiration have been commonly noted. Yet there remain few studies of the ways in which building aspirations are imagined and realized through the material culture of the home. This paper draws upon ethnographic research in Jamaica to understand the role of materiality in shaping, structuring and making evident possible futures. From the accumulation of building materials such as cement blocks, concrete, tiles, steel and paint to the imagined designs and structures of home, I discuss three core ethnographic examples that highlight the pathways to personhood that are part and parcel of the experience of aspiration. These pathways include property acquisition practices for rural Jamaicans living in and around family land, the provision of housing and home ownership in the national imagination through the development of major urban developments in the 1970s and 1980s; and finally the role of migration as a route to home ownership through a focus upon the increase in return migrants and return migrant communities. I conclude by reflecting upon the ways in which collecting building blocks, concrete, tiles, steel and other materials become part of the personal and national narratives of progress and development.

panel Dwe03
Material moralities of homes and housing