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'Home is where the heart is': everyday geographies of young heterosexual couples' love in and of homes

This thesis focuses on the relationships between heterosexuality, love, and home. It examines the homemaking practices and relationship activities of 14 heterosexual couples, and in particular the experiences of women in these relationships, who are aged between 20-40 years, have no children, and live in Hamilton, Aotearoa New Zealand. It is argued that heterosexual bodies that ‘love’, and the domestic spaces they occupy, are mutually constituted and continually reproduced through the everyday practices of homemaking. ‘Couple’ interviews, solicited diaries and self-directed photography, follow-up individual interviews and evaluation questionnaires are used to access couples’, and in particular women’s, everyday geographies of heterosexuality, love and home. A combination of qualitative research methods and feminist poststructuralist theory is used to give rise to an embodied, emotionally situated and partial geography. My findings are organised around three spatial scales: body, dwelling, and household and beyond. Focusing on the first scale – body – provides an opportunity for foregrounding gendered and sexed bodies as important sites of homemaking. A multiplicity of homemaking practices occur at the site of the body, including: the feelings, emotions, sensations, and language of love; the expressions and spaces of physical affection and intimacy; and the presence of corporeal and domestic dirt. Focusing on the second scale – dwelling – allows for an understanding of the ways in which discourses of love are mapped on to specific materialities of home. Issues of privacy and the negotiated use of shared domestic spaces, the creation and enactment of domestic activities and routines, and the accumulation and arrangement of material domestic objects all come to the fore when considering dwellings. The third scale – household and beyond – is used to examine some of the ways in which households and homemakers are connected to broader social, cultural, political and economic relations of power beyond the physical dwelling. Paying attention to the household and beyond prompts a consideration of the ways in which housing tenure and the practices of household consumption can dissolve the public and private boundaries that surround home. The heteronormativity of geographical discourse means that the relationship between heterosexuality, love and home is often taken-for-granted as ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ and as such is left ‘invisible’ and unremarked upon. Making the relationship between heterosexuality, love and home explicit in the production of geographical knowledge displaces ontological and epistemological assumptions about the naturalness and normality of heterosexuality. This study responds to the lack of critical attention paid to the relationship between love, heterosexuality and home in geography. Considering the homemaking practices and relationship activities of heterosexual couples encourages a more critical understanding of the normative and powerful ways in which heterosexual bodies and domestic spaces are mutually constituted.
Type of thesis
Morrison, C.-A. (2010). ‘Home is where the heart is’: everyday geographies of young heterosexual couples’ love in and of homes (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4797
University of Waikato
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