Swags, bunks, and beds: on the materiality of sleeping in and out of houses at Yuendumu, NT
(Australian National University)
Paper short abstract:
Examining the materiality of beds, swags and bunks and how they are respectively used by younger or older Warlpiri people, to explore the materiality of inside/outside sleeping, and to reflect on age-graded phenomenological experiences of houses at Yuendumu
Paper long abstract:
The crux of my paper lies in ethnographically exploring the materiality of age-graded sleeping practices of Warlpiri people at Yuendumu, central Australian Aboriginal town. I focus on a currently observable trend among younger Warlpiri couples to invest in large, solid beds on which they sleep inside bedrooms in the houses of Yuendumu. This sets them apart from older Warlpiri people, who tend to sleep on bunks or mattresses, more easily moveable and which allow them to sleep in different locations in and around the house depending on weather, social composition of the household, and personal preference. While this age-graded distinction in sleeping materiality highlights a general trend of the younger generations towards utilising the inside of houses in novel ways for desert towns, it gets complicated through the issues surrounding swags. The latter are used by Warlpiri people of all ages, especially for sleeping in ritual camps and out bush, but, importantly, new children-sized swags enable a new kind of mobility for children between the outside and the inside of houses and moving between parental and more senior kin. I analyse these sleeping materialities as emergent forms of modernity, and push this analysis further by examining the ways in which beds, bunks, adult swags and children's swags, respectively, are or are not swapped, borrowed and given away. In my conclusion, I ponder the interconnectivities between the age-differentiated phenomenological experiences of living inside or outside the house and novel ways of owning material household items.
Material moralities of homes and housing