Accepted paper:

The meanings of dwellings in a late 18th century auto-ethnography


Alf Arvidsson (Umeå University)

Paper short abstract:

In the late 18th century autobiography of Pehr Stenberg, dwelling is a constantly recurring theme. A narrative analysis shows how questions of personal economy, social relations and responsibilities, and ideas of a “good living” are addressed in the descriptions of dwellings.

Paper long abstract:

The Swedish peasant son Pehr Stenberg (1758-1824) could, with support from his family and the farmers of the parish council, go to the university to study to be a priest. In taking on educated ways of living, he not only kept a diary and archived letters and poems, but also continuously re-wrote them as a "life description" that eventually ran to 4000 hand-written pages and has just recently been published. Since it was written during the course of his life and gives detailed descriptions of everyday situations, it can be described as an auto-ethnography as well as an autobiography. The themes of dwelling, lodging, and housing conditions recurs constantly through the manuscript. This is due to his many positions before he gets a steady occupation, as well as to the many travels he has to undertake as a student and later in his duty as priest. A narrative analysis reveals four different uses of the themes. It is a problem in Stenberg's daily life - something to be arranged, and to keep at decent standards. It is used as characterization of others' economic and moral standards. Furthermore, it also brings up the social relations and responsibilities of sharing a household, and finally gives indications of Stenberg's opinions on what a "good living" ought to be.

panel Arch01
Dwelling in the cultural archives I: traces, experiences and meanings