Home and Identity: the private-public nexus

How is the home associated with personal and social identity in both the public and private spheres? This is the overarching question for the International Conference: Home and Identity: the Private-Public Nexus. The home (private) implies separation from the world (public). Domesticity in this context is seen in relation to a person's need for centeredness, especially in an anonymous globalised world.

The Aula Volpi was absolutely packed by 2 pm on Wednesday 14th November as students brought in more and more chairs. They were treated to an afternoon of insights in the first panel session: Social and Anthropological Aspects of the Home. Professor Rafael Alvira started proceedings with a philosophical overview of the home as the radical origin of personal and social identity; he stressed the importance of communication, friendship and how having a name is a key factor in one’s identity. Jean-Claude Kaufmann’s presentation focussed on how happiness in the home is constructed through many small and seemingly insignificant actions especially cooking and conversations between the family members. Guiliana Mandich followed explaining the importance of boundaries in the home and the challenge of technological developments in recent decades on these boundaries.

This panel session was followed by the Italian and English research paper presentations. The first Italian research session was entitled Intimacy, Domesticity Identity and Relationship. Topics included gender identity and the home; domestic work between the crisis of intimacy and the rediscovery of self and the question of recognition and identity in family life. There were two English research paper tracks in this session. The theme of the first session was Living Styles, Urban Identity and the Home examining the role of architecture on public and private space and its impact on the changing home, domestic identity and private behaviours. Presenters came from Queen’s University, Belfast and the Universities of Valencia and Navarra in Spain. The second English research paper theme was Home & Family with presenters coming from Kenya and Spain.

The second day of Home Renaissance Foundation’s International Conference organised by academics from New Zealand and Rome opened with the second Italian and English research paper presentations. The Italian session: Family, Conciliation and Domesticity, discussing personal identity and family networks in the home; work and family between conflict and being complementary and domesticity and transformation of female identity. The two English sessions were entitled Embodiment and Domestic Spaces and Home in a Postmodern Society. Among the presenters there were academics from Israel and South America.

The first plenary panel session for the day commenced with keynote addresses by Professors from Rome and Pavia. Susanna Pallini and Marita Rampazi provided evidence and data from children who had suffered domestic violence in the home and from young women who had to leave their homes and who brought with them memoirs of their former abodes: both material and virtual – particularly personal computers. Professor Vidotto, the third speaker in this session, concentrated on how the architecture of modern homes is related to identity.

After a break, Fiorenza Deriu from Universita La Sapienza spoke about Intergenerational Relationships and Family Care: Rethinking Women’s Identity, she was followed by an inspired lecture given by Guiliana Kantza of Istituto Freudiano in Milan entitled, Being a Woman in the Contemporary Confusion.

After lunch the final Italian and English research papers were delivered. The first concurrent English research paper session: Professional Work of the Home: Between the Market and Gratuity included research investigations on: Work of the Home: a True Profession and Recognition of a Professional Course on the Home: The Public-Private Tension. The second English session examined care work and identity.

The third plenary session looked at Domestic Space and Domestic Work: New Public-Private Interactions. Professor Franca Alacevich and Annalisa Tonarelli from Florence University spoke about the cutting edge research they are involved in which shows how the new generation of housewives differ from their predecessors. Caroline Sanderson spoke in English about the way work and home interact and the research that Home Renaissance Foundation is fostering on this topic globally. She gave a critique of the terminology used for the relationship between these concepts explaining that work-home interface was her preferred expression and used the image of the seashore as a metaphor for work and home. Federica Rossi Gasparrini shared experiences from her many years of work with women’s organisations; she emphasized how choice in homemaking is a priority for women.

Leaving Aula Volpi late on Thursday afternoon I reflected on the many ideas I had listened to during the conference both in the keynote speeches and at the Research paper presentations in different Universita Tre venues. Three things struck me particularly: the consistently high quality of papers, the interdisciplinary nature of the proceedings and how international the conference was with participants from as far afield as Israel, Australia, Dubai, Philippines, Colombia and Kenya in addition to representatives from a variety of European countries including France, Ireland, Italy Spain and the UK.

Here you are the Conference Programme