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The complex, multi-layered concept of “home” may have the denotation of the place where you live, but even that very sterile definition gets complex as soon as you start considering what “living” somewhere really means. And there’s a proliferation of advice on how to make a house or apartment or dorm room feel more like home.
So what is that feeling? That indefinable secret sauce that seemingly magically translates and transforms a space into a home?
The TED talks Ideas blog addresses this very question of what makes a city “home” from the perspective of a number of people. Chris Downey, an architect who lost his sight and now works as a consultant, discusses how his experience of “home” changed entirely when, after losing both his sight and sense of smell, he had to re-map the entire city entirely by auditory experience and physical feeling – and tree branches hanging over the sidewalk. “Home” suddenly became a place where he was completely unfamiliar.
In another presentation, Taiye Selasi discusses how where someone is “from” can be very different from where you are “local”. She suggests a three-pronged test to determine what locality someone might claim. First, rituals – the rituals someone carries out daily, from morning coffee to removing shoes before going into a home, informs where someone feels at home. After all, there’s nothing like the sights, sounds, smells, or tastes you’re familiar with – wherever you may find them.
Second, she suggests relationships. The relationships you form and maintain are not necessarily tied to a locality, but they do determine a big part of the places you wish to claim and are comfortable in.
And third – restrictions. If you cannot legally nor comfortably live in a place, claiming it as home is problematic. If you are gay, then claiming a place that you could be stoned to death for your identity as home could be far from safe.
After all, home is a part of our identity. And as Selasi quoted Colum McCann, “All experience is local. All identity is experience,” So where do you experience “home”?