Home-making post-disaster

December 17, 2013

Montreal, December 17, 2013 -- From the Holocaust to the Cambodian Civil War to the Somali refugee crisis, the past century has been rife with mass forced migrations. According to a recent study by the UN Refugee Agency, over 42 million people worldwide are currently displaced from their homes.

When it comes time to rebuild, these victims of home-destruction, or "domicide," are often given only the bare essentials and told to make do. That is nowhere near enough says recent Concordia University doctoral graduate, Devora Neumark. In a new paper published in Housing, Theory and Society she argues that a powerful way to overcome the traumas associated with domicide and reconstitute a sense of home is to engage in house-beautification practices.

"It can be something as simple as sweeping the kitchen floor," says Neumark, who herself was the victim of forced dislocation when her home was destroyed by an act of arson. "The important thing is to intentionally enact practical beautification gestures that can help us feel at home despite the increasing challenges of housing instability, habitat destruction and the ruptures in relationships that often accompany these experiences."

To arrive at this conclusion, Neumark used an art-based methodology involving over 100 individuals who had personal or familial experience with involuntary displacement. Through public art performances and open-ended interviews, she noticed that the disorientation caused by the loss of home could be eased by the repetition of simple domestic actions. This familiarizing implicates objects - like furniture, dishes, linen, decorative items and books; their placement within the house; the patterns of their use; and the associated stories that emerge over time about them.

This research shows that choosing to embrace home beautification is one of the most telling signs of one's capacity to determine the course of one's life after the trauma of displacement. "Indeed, following forced displacement, making deliberate choices - and acting on the belief that one's choices matter - are decisive elements in transitioning from victim to survivor: they are a sign of building resilience," explains Neumark.

"The gestures of homemaking help create a sense of order so necessary in the aftermath of traumas associated with displacement," she says. "But the ability to beautify one's home is not a given. The role of beauty, for people whose sense of home has been ruptured or destroyed, often only becomes apparent when the most acute risks, threats and perils associated with the direct experience of having to move are no longer felt."

Neumark hopes that her work will inspire additional research into and refugee policy changes associated with populations in more acute stages of housing crises - such as for those displaced because of Typhoon Hiyan in the Philippines. "With intensifying strife in so many places around the world," says Neumark, "the need to identify viable ways to help rebuild is crucial to lessening the long-term and intergenerational impacts amongst the victims of displacement."
-end-
About the research: This project was funded in part by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; the Faculty Development Fund of Goddard College; Concordia University's Institute for Canadian Jewish Studies; Concordia University's School of Graduate Studies; and matralab, a Concordia-based research centre dedicated to interdisciplinary, intercultural, intermedia and interactive art.

Related links: Media contact:

Cléa Desjardins
Senior advisor, media relations
University Communications Services
Concordia University
Phone: 514-848-2424, ext. 5068
Email: clea.desjardins@concordia.ca
Web: concordia.ca/now/media-relations
Twitter: twitter.com/CleaDesjardins

Concordia University

Related Trauma Articles from Brightsurf:

Early trauma influences metabolism across generations
A study by the Brain Research Institute at UZH reveals that early trauma leads to changes in blood metabolites - similarly in mice and humans.

Childhood trauma affects the timing of motherhood
Women who have experienced childhood trauma become mothers earlier than those with a more stable childhood environment shows a new study conducted in collaboration between the University of Turku and the University of Helsinki in Finland.

Trauma relapse in a novel context may be preventable
Korea Brain Research Institute (KBRI, President: Pann-Ghill Suh) announced on February 10 that its research team led by Dr.

Paving the way to healing complex trauma
A major study led by researchers at La Trobe University in Australia has identified key themes that will be used to inform strategies to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents in the first years of their children's lives.

Improving trauma pain outcomes
A 7-year prospective cohort study from the Corporal Michael J.

Emotional trauma and fear most likely cause of 'Havana Syndrome'
The cause of the mystery illness among US and Canadian diplomats in Havana is most likely to be emotional trauma and fear according to a leading sociologist and an expert in neurodegenerative diseases, writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Making a 'to do' list for trauma docs
Researchers from Drexel's College of Computing & Informatics have been integrating a tablet-based checklist tool into the workflow of a pediatric trauma center and, over the course of 15 months, have shown that it doesn't hamper doctors' performance.

Children develop PTSD when they 'overthink' their trauma
A new study shows that children are more likely to suffer PTSD if they think their reaction to a traumatic event is not 'normal'.

Disparities in access to trauma centers
An analysis of census tract data for neighborhoods in America's three largest cities suggests black-majority neighborhoods are associated with disparities in access to trauma centers.

Psychotic experiences could be caused by trauma in childhood
Researchers at the University of Bristol have made stronger links between psychotic experiences and different types of trauma in childhood.

Read More: Trauma News and Trauma Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.