Accepted paper:

Changing notions and practices of home-making in Baku (Azerbaijan) in the socialist and post-socialist era


Sascha Roth (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at the inflationary practice of home-renovation (remont), the perforation of the home by new communication technologies and the increasing importance of cars as alternative private spaces that requires us to rethink conventional notions of home as a spatially bounded entity.

Paper long abstract:

During socialism, housing and people's efforts in making a home were largely regulated by the state and socialist ideology. The shortage of housing in urban centers had a serious impact on processes of home-making, too. Architects were required to make use of apartment space in the most economical way possible. Thus, interiors and material objects -the way a proper home should look like- were subject of the state's interference in people's everyday life and privacy. With the privatization of houses after 1991, newly gained freedom in designing home-interiors resulted in dwellers' inflationary practice of remont, i.e. renovating and transforming homes according to personal taste and newly emerging standards of interior design. This practice has become the main strategy to personalize formerly standardized dwellings but also a strategy to increase the market value of apartments by using nuanced labels of differently hierarchized remont-activities. Based on my fieldwork in Baku/Azerbaijan, I will discuss changing notions of home and what different meanings it can acquire in different social contexts. On the basis of such meanings, I argue, that the home is transgressing the spatial boundaries of the house in distinct ways. The materiality of technologies such as internet and smartphones have led to the perforation of homes in a way we should ask ourselves in how far ideas and values of home are changing with regard to people's actual use of it. Furthermore, I will demonstrate how and why cars have to be considered as integral part of the home, accordingly.

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Ethnographies of the house, values and manners of inhabit