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Accepted Paper:

(Re)imagining care in a home full of living things  
Katherine Pfeiffer (UCL)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic research with biodesigners in the UK, this paper considers different speculations and experiences of care in homes full of alive materiality.

Paper long abstract:

Consider a home that is full of things that are literally alive: walls papered with fabrics embedded with photosynethic coatings, furniture grown in situ from mycelium, electronics powered by microorganisms. Simultaneously objects, artefacts, and creatures, these things would be made, grown, and programmed. They unsettle as much as they delight. I see clear parallels here with Bennett’s ideas in her work The Enchantment of Modern Life. Rejecting the notion that the modern world is disenchanted, rationalized, and inert, Bennett proposes a world alive with hybrids and the possibility for enchantment. Morphing creatures (like these designs) enchant as they “enact the very possibility of change; their presence carries with it the trace of dangerous but also exciting and exhilarating migrations” (2001: 15).

Such spaces are being imagined—and developed—by a growing number of biodesigners within the UK. The creation of living home goods invites anthropological attention: what kinds of care would an environment filled with such objects engender? What forms of self-understanding and relationality? In this paper, I explore how biodesigners developing such objects and materials imagine future ecologies and sociality. Such imaginings, I suggest, emerge from designers own experience of living with alive materiality: as many experiment with such biomaterial innovations within the context of their own homes, their homes become testing-grounds for such novel ecologies and their own expectations for care are confirmed, morphed, and complicated.

Panel P099a
Reordering Domestic Spaces: Wild Ecologies of Things in the 21st Century I
  Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -