What Is ‘Home’?


The concept of a home has always had multiple levels of complexity as it was approached by different scholars in various ways. Nevertheless, the associations that come with the word ‘home’ are the most comforting and reassuring to most people on this planet. Home brings one’s mind to a place of stability and acceptance and represents a place in which a person feels comfortable and safe. It is where most of the people’s memories are formed, and in many cases, home is a feeling rather than a distinct place. In this paper, a summary of scholar’s approaches to defining ‘home’ will be presented in order to come to a conclusion regarding a personal idea of how the concept should be viewed.

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Perspectives of Scholars

Macy Douglas’s (1993) approach toward defining the concept of home is unique because it combines both positive and potentially negative influences on people. Douglas reflected on the tyranny of the home, in which young people felt trapped and wanted to escape the control and scrutiny of their parents. The combination of nostalgia and resistance to rules that exist in people’s homes is an interesting mixture, which may contribute to the humorous treatment of the topic.

Therefore, it becomes clear from the start that home “cannot be defined by its functions” (1993, p. 61). This means that home does not provide the ultimate care for people and represents a space with very specific characteristics that are complicated to define and describe.

The key intention behind Douglas’s (1993) view is explaining that home is not necessarily a fixed space despite the definition of it presupposing a localizable idea. Home does not always need to be made of brick and mortar; it can be a tent in the middle of a desert, a boat by the shore of a lake, or a wagon in a trailer park. Furthermore, the size of the space does not matter either due to the wide variability of people’s views on how their homes should look. Nevertheless, there is an expected pattern of appearance and reappearance of the furnishings. An example of this is the Japanese rolling away and rolling back their betting in the morning and at night. Thus, there is a certain sense of regularity that gives people a certain level of comfort and confidence.

As the author identifies that home is not a place, she proceeds with exploring the concept from the perspective of serving people as a “memory machine” (Douglas, 1993, p. 62). She writes:

The home makes its time rhythms in response to outside pressures, it is in real time. Response to the memory of severe winters is translated into a capacity for storage, storm windows, and extra blankets; holding the memory of summer droughts, the home responds by shade-giving roofs and water tanks (Douglas, 1993, p. 62).

The capability of home to provide the necessary resources to withstand the pressures of life contributes to the shaping of people’s memories from events that take place. One does not expect to die in a hotel or at a railway station, which is why home brings a sense of utility and comfort that is defined by meeting some of the needs to which the humanity is used.

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Since Douglas’s (1993) approach is focused predominantly on the concept of home as a feeling and a sense of belonging, contrasting it with other perspectives is important. For example, Bell Hooks (1990) ascribed more tangible characteristics to a home rather than abstract. The author describes the sense of safety as one reaches the porch of a house, and the feeling of arriving and homecoming brings a sense of completeness. In addition to this, Hooks (1990) discusses sexism as a tool for ensuring that women provide their labor and services to create a home place in which the spirit is nurtured. Despite the fact that sexism is viewed in a negative light, women have played defining roles in shaping the perceptions of the home, both in Black and white communities.

Heidegger (1954) viewed the concept of home from the perspective of building and dwelling. The author mentions that there are real relations between space and location and between a person and space. Spaces in which people found themselves on a daily basis reinforce the ideas of dwelling and building as connections are created on a physical basis. Building produces locations and joins spaces between them, which helps to bring a sense of home through the arrangement of objects that are detrimental to the comfort of people.

This perspective is different from the view of Douglas who suggested that there are little tangible characteristics that define home as a concept. However, it offers a new look on the problem – home is something that can be constructed for meeting the demands and expectations of people, and the building can be later given an abstract meaning that has a physical framework.

Personal Definition

Based on the above explorations of the idea of home and what it means to people, one’s own definition of ‘home’ can be given. In the personal view, a home should not be linked solely to tangible things or only to abstract feelings. Instead, an individual should reflect on the combination of physical objects and emotions that these things evoke to create one’s own sense of home. For some people, home is defined by the presence of family – wherever the family is, there is the home. It can be in the middle of the forest on a camping trip with friends and relatives or in a cozy old house where the family is gathered around the table.

For others, home is a collection of objects that bring a person comfort and help relax after a long day of work. These objects range from technologies to old childhood books and hold a special value that others may not understand or see as valuable. Therefore, home is something that each person defines for himself or herself based on what is valuable, comfortable, and meaningful.

Concluding Thoughts

To summarize, the idea of ‘home’ is complex and multi-dimensional, which is why there is a range of perspectives regarding its definition. For example, Heidegger (1954) associated construction and dwelling with the term while Hooks (1990) gave it a deeper meaning substantiated by discussions on sexism and racism as Black women were forced to stay at home and serve as keepers of their homes. Whatever the perception of the topic is, it is important to understand that different social issues will influence the shaping of most notions as time goes on. However, ‘home’ should not have a unified definition because of the variety of experiences and contexts influencing its understanding.


Douglas, M. (1993). The idea of a home: A kind of space. In B. Miller Lane (Ed.), Housing and dwelling (pp. 61-68). New York, NY: Routledge.

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Heidegger, M. (1954). Building, dwelling, thinking. In B. Miller Lane (Ed.), Housing and dwelling (pp. 50-61). New York, NY: Routledge.

Hooks, B. (1990). Homeplace: A site of resistance. In B. Miller Lane (Ed.), Housing and dwelling (pp. 68-73). New York, NY: Routledge.

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