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Building differences: material geographies of home(s) among Polish builders in London

By Ayona Datta

Abstract

This paper examines how embodied acts of building home(s) for others shape particular constructions of cultural difference and otherness. It presents a largely unexplored perspective of home – one that is uninhabited by its builders. This perspective becomes relevant through a study of Polish home-builders who have legally entered the building sector in London since EU expansion in 2004, who put together homes for others, temporarily inhabiting them during building, and moving out as soon as the work is completed. Using participant photo-diaries and semi-structured interviews, this paper suggests that the building act – putting together of homes for others as part of a political economy of labour and materials in different localised contexts, produces particular distinctions between the ‘socio-technical’ nature of homes across national territories. In doing so, it extends different perspectives on homes from cultural geography, anthropology, and architecture to suggest a more nuanced material geography of home – as an assemblage of building elements under different contexts which, through the building acts of migrant men, allow scrutiny of cultural difference and otherness. Participants’ own homes left behind in Poland, homes they build for others in London, and the future homes that they aspire to, suggest how differences in the ways that they are put together, are ascribed cultural meanings of dwelling that are inherently corporal. Building homes is a deeply masculine act – a sexualised and embodied politics of home, which validates particular versions of gendered ethno-national identities as Polish men, and locates the future home within a Polish home/land. Although inhabiting the future home is uncertain, building this home is seen as an extension of their identity as Polish men who ensure the continuity of the Polish home and family

Topics: G Geography (General), HM Sociology
Publisher: Blackwell
Year: 2008
DOI identifier: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2008.00320.x
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.lse.ac.uk:5978
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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