What’s in a home? Toward a critical theory of housing/dwelling

Ariel Handel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


What is a home/house? How can we bridge between the concepts of a house, as a physical structure, and a home, with its symbolic and human meanings? The paper suggests an outline for a theory of housing/dwelling that considers the multiple facets of homes/houses: a top-down manufactured object, an ideal representation of ontological security, and a site of everyday lives and complex social relations. Combining several philosophical backgrounds—phenomenological dwelling, actor-network theory, Foucault’s dispositive, and Illich’s vernacularity—the home/house is investigated along three layers: (1) housing regime, that is the home/house as part of a broader system of planning, economy, or national goals; (2) critical phenomenology, aimed at finding and describing the gaps between the ideal-home image characterizing a given society and the home/house’s actual behavior; and (3) active dwelling, which regarded this gap as an engine for home-making as a political and agentic process. The theoretical arguments are briefly demonstrated through the case study of Palestinian homes/houses in the Occupied Territories, as political sites of both vulnerability and agency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1045-1062
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Foucault
  • Home/house
  • actor-network theory
  • dwelling
  • theory of housing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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