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Annmarie Adams on House Life

16 December, 2020

This annotation is an extract from Annmarie Adams (2000) review ‘House Life: Space, Place and Family in Europe’, Journal of Family History, October 2000, 557-559

Has a change of residence ever turned your life upside down? Our family of four has recently moved from a Victorian house in rural Quebec, with its characteristic arrangement of enclosed rooms and specialised spaces, to an urban 1960s bungalow in British Columbia, with an open plan and multipurpose rooms. Nearly all of our domestic routines have changed in the new house. For example, since the British Columbia house offers little acoustic privacy, we all wake up at once; we now tend to watch television during meals, since the dining and living areas are combined; and outdoor activities take place in the backyard, which is isolated from those of our neighbours by tall hedges. Our former home, on the other hand, like so many others of its type, had a generous front porch, providing plenty of opportunities for chance encounters with both
neighbours and strangers on the street.

Our recent experience raises a number of important questions for historians of home and family. Does family life produce particular domestic arrangements, or does the design of a house determine the behaviour of its inhabitants? Does the modern house presume or determine modern modes of living? How do adults and children contest the spatial norms advanced by their domestic enclosures? These issues are addressed by the authors of ten essays in House Life: Space, Place and Family in Europe, edited by Donna Birdwell-Pheasant and Denise Lawrence-Zúñiga.

House Life began as a session, organised by the book’s editors, at the 1992 annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Indeed, most of the twelve authors of the book’s chapters are anthropologists (two are architects) and their assumptions, methods, and secondary literature are drawn from anthropology and the social sciences.

Annmarie Adams on House Life

This annotation is an extract from Annmarie Adams (2000) review ‘House Life: Space, Place and Family in Europe’, Journal of Family History, October 2000, 557-559