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Home vs domestic space

Home is located in space, and not necessarily a fixed space, as the fabled three little pigs show well. They built homes made of straw, wood and concrete, and fled each time their space or house was threatened by the big bad wolf. This shows that home can be anywhere someone feels ‘at home’. Yet it remains a contested and dangerous space, not only for the 2 older pigs, but for the young girl in Monsoon Wedding who was molested by her uncle throughout her childhood or Malika in Inch’Allah Dimanche who, after 15 years, dares not venture outside the physical space of what she calls ‘home’, for fear that the husband beat her.

Home is always situated, located, ordered, and brought under control. The banlieue or ghetto in France is home to some, just like suburbia is to those who are wealthy in America. A castle is home to others: princes, kings, beys, sultans, queens etc. Home can even be imagined and longed for: you can inhabit one space and still call another space ‘home’ where you no longer are, like Rushdie’s Indias of the mind.

But what happens when home is neither here nor there?

Then you live in interstices, an in-between space, a metaphysical or metaphorical home or in exile like Rushdie or the Dalai Lama, Hirsi Ayaan Ali, Nadia El Fani, Kamel Daoud etc. And many other foreigners who live abroad but who never really belong to one place. Or, like great writers and poets, you dwell in texts or art or architecture or film. Baudelaire, Montaigne speak of living in a space beyond their death in books which they write and leave us to enjoy. Books, art and films allow us to inhabit the same space as famous authors, poets, visionaries, auteurs.

Sometimes, too, home can stand in stark opposition to what we think it should be: inside an insanitarium –like Radley for the Pretty Little Liars Mona and Spencer. And sometimes, some can be imprisoned for years and are forced to call prison, ‘home’: Mandela’s home was prison for 27 years, for example. Similarly, all those men and women who lived in prison for good or bad reasons must call the space they occupy home.

But when home traps someone in silence and servitude, it is “not” a home. When it traps you into your own body, where do you go? Where do you go when space becomes inescapable and overwhelming? Or when you wish to not be confined any longer?

Some turn towards the outside, and act out, by harming others, including shooting them. Some have affairs; others move on and move out. Some, like Egyptian women, stick pins into men’s body on buses when they’re tired of being sexually harassed day in day out [Cairo 678]. And some hit the road and go on journeys while some return, and some don’t.

Or, you can turn inside: some burn themselves alive. Or fast on salt. Or go hungry for long. Or go mad. Or isolate or commit suicide. Rage in this space is always enacted on the body.

Or, others like Salma, Tamil’s greatest poet alive, wrote on anything she got her hands on. Locked up for 25 years because she refused to stop going to school at 13 and marry, she created poetry while looking through one small window: “a window was created to shut women off from the outside world.”

But there is another space, too where people can inhabit: cyberspace. Today, people live in virtual worlds all across the globe. Alone yet together, in a space where they cannot be touched or enclosed physically. They get a sense of community from social networking sites in the privacy of a space which may or may not be home. It could be from a library or someone else’s place. It gives plenty of freedom, but keeps you under surveillance.

And then there’s the space of the past, which lives in the present. If we dig into the history of America we will see that Blacks’ home have always been contested, as their rights today: they don’t occupy their own space, but a borrowed space or space which Others ‘own’, or think they own. They cannot occupy a space without questioning their space now. Time was when blacks and whites had separate spaces for eating, drinking, sitting, living, being. The black space has been oppressed, dominated and sometimes taken away from them. Today, blacks and other minorities sit in one place still, and whites on another in public spaces. Space is still contested.

Whatever space is or isn’t, it is still fraught with tensions, especially for marginalized folks, including and especially women.


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