Pop Theory: “Home” for the holidays

The question of “home,” and, in particular, that of feeling at home in one’s body, is one that queer thinkers and writers have attended to for quite some time. (In the ’90s and aughts, this question was frequently at the epicenter of the lesbian/ftm/trans debates; see the work of Jay Prosser, Judith “Jack” Halberstam, Susan Stryker, Heather Love and even Eve Sedgwick for more about the body and feeling “at home.”)

What I instead what to think about, and as it is timely for the holiday season (when we more so than ever feel compelled to return “home,” whatever that means), is “home” in relation to space and not in relation to one’s own body.

That is, how does one acquire a sense of feeling “at home”? What provides a sense of “home”? Or, what is “home”?

“Home” is not just space. Space, according to Henri Bergson (and his readers, like Elizabeth Grosz) is that metaphysical entity that is constructed a posteriori to movement. Space does not exist prior to anything; it is what is fabricated around something. In other words, there are bodies, there are bodies that move, and in/within/through the range of movement(s) space is deposited under and around those moving bodies.

(Take a simple, and somewhat reductive, example: someone saying “Get out of my facial” while waving her arms around her face. Her “facial” is not just her face but the space imagined and determined by that arm movement. Stay out of this woman’s space!)

Space in this sense is dynamic, it’s alive; it is not an empty, static vessel to be filled. For Bergson, too, space is not only a universe of movement but its dynamism also rests in its multiplicity and in its virtuality. Space is never singular but always plural; it is never simply actual but is comprised of many layers of space, some virtual (residing in the past), some present. This is why Elizabeth Grosz defines space as the “field for the play of virtualities,” whereby this field is “an unfolding space, defined, as time is, by the arc of movement, and thus a space open to becoming….”

Her understanding of space is heterogeneous and multi-layered; space is never singular, space, but always plural, spaces. Space for Grosz, like Bergson, is multi-layered with layers of the past enmeshed with the present. Grosz’s “field of virtualities” acknowledges the power of the durational past and how these layers can affect the present in terms of space. This sense of a complex layered-ness underscores Grosz’s conjecture that perhaps there is “a materiality to space, rather than materiality residing with only its contents.” A delimited frame, or area, of space consists of multiple lived moments that have taken place during a certain duration of time, whereby poly-temporality results from the fact that multiple individuals have lived in that space. Space, she claims, is “produced through matter, extension, and movement.”

What occurs when space is framed, when it becomes an area, is the stabilization of the movement or action that has established that space — it is at this point that space, and the movement that comprises space, becomes linear, singular, and quantifiable. As Grosz explains in Time Travels: “[t]he moment that movement must be reflected upon, analyzed, it yields objects and their states, distinct, localized, mappable, repeatable in principle, objects and states capable of measurement and containment. The depositing of a mappable trajectory by movement, its capacity to be divided and to be seen statically, are the mutual conditions of the thing and of space.”

Are you still with me? Good.

What does all this heady theory (gasp!) mean regarding the question of “home”?

Well, utilizing the above thoughts, we can decipher that space is made of a few things:

-bodies
-movements
-layers of time (comprised of layers of past movements and bodies whose affective resonances linger and which are palpable)

Home is the space of those bodies (human or otherwise) with which you have an affective connection that persists (that continues and that which has a futurity) that provides those “warm-n-fuzzy” feelings of intimacy, comfort and stability. (Feel free to discuss/elaborate/disagree/etc in the comments below.)

More than anything, home is established through the connection between bodies, which is why, I think, we often identify home with another body — take it away, Bette.

Or, perhaps, more pointedly, home is a feeling—a feeling of the space within which these bodies and these correlative affections/emotions reside. So, for me at this current point in my life, I feel (at) home in my bed with my two puppies snuggled up against me. The space of home encompasses this: these bodies (the mattress bed, the sheets, the pillows, the two big-eyed chihuahua mongrels, my body) and their affects (the warmth, the love, the ease, the comfort and security). Home is this space as it has acquired a duration (one that it has a past): this home has been built overtime, by the fact that every night since their adoption my puppies and I end our long days (oh, they have such long days of sleeping, eating and playing with their toys!) cuddle in bed and fall asleep. Home is that recognition, that familiarity bred by past experiences which continue into the future.

What is home for you, my thoughtful reader?

Dr. Marcie Bianco is gloriously unemployed and homeless — as only one
with a handful of useless degrees could be. She currently serves as
the Editorial Director of VelvetPark.

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