Four Houses, Never at Home: Tents, Capitalism and the Fabric of Living


It seems, these days, that tents are everywhere. In the wake of natural disasters, in the face of manufactured crises, after conflict, and on the edge of borders, can be found fragile, ephemeral fabric dwellings. This paper tells the stories of four tents, four “houses never at home,” and a fifth story not about a particular tent, but about tents themselves. The first story looks at the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States, the second at New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, a third turns to the Occupy movement and a fourth looks more generally at displacement and exile in the face of conflict. Moving from the very local and fixed to the global and mobile, and from the idea of tents as a temporary fix to the tent as a mobile structure full of utopian possibility, this chapter uses the tent to investigate the role of home under the indifferent capitalism of the twenty-first century.

Published in Breaking and Entering: The Contemporary House Cut, Spliced, and Haunted. Bridget Elliott, ed. McGill Queens University Press, 2014.

Read a pre-publication final draft here.

About Kirsty Robertson

Kirsty Robertson is Associate Professor of contemporary art and Director of museum and curatorial studies at Western University, Canada.
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