Home and State: Reflections on Metaphor and Practice

Margaret Davies


Home is an evocative and fluid concept which has significance for all people across several scales of life: these scales include the self, our relationships and family, our physical resting place, our cultures, the nation, and even the planet.  Home is a pervasive concept, sometimes so pervasive that we don’t even notice when it is being invoked. And it is a space which compresses many normative values, as well as the normalities associated with family, culture and nation. Thinking about the home requires us to cross or transcend several dualisms, such as those between the individual and the collective, the symbolic and material, inner psychological space and the outside world, and public and private. This paper considers the idea of home as a metaphor in conceptualizing the state. The focus is not on ideas of nation and homeland which are often found in general political discourse, but rather the deployment of ‘home’ in governmental, institutional, and policy formations. My aim is not to rehabilitate the idea of the home as a metaphor for the state, nor to undertake a comparative analysis, but rather to observe the presence and absence of ‘home’ in several contexts and illustrate the diversity of its meanings in relation to the state. The first part will outline scholarly and feminist interest in the idea of home. My focus is on Anglo-centric commentary about the home, though this itself has been strongly influenced by French feminism, and more generally by French phenomenology and psychoanalysis. The second part ofthe paper will consider the idea of home in the political and public domain in three national contexts: Sweden, the UK, and Australia. A final revised version of this article is published in the Griffith Law Review, vol 23, no 2 (2014), DOI: 10.1080/10383441.2014.962447.


home; state; Sweden; Australia; UK; feminist theory

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