Accepted Paper:

Tiny Feminisms: Decolonizing Building Sciences in the Do-It-Yourself Tiny House Movement   

Author:

Evangeline (Vange) Heiliger (Oberlin College)

Paper short abstract:

I argue that tiny house builders would benefit from a greater engagement with feminist / decolonial /STS knowledge production, not only in the building sciences, but also in histories of racism, genocide, sexism, ableism, classism, and dispossession that inform their larger social justice goals.

Paper long abstract:


The Do-it-Yourself Tiny House Movement (DIY THM) calls for rethinking human needs and collectivizing building practices to address intersectional economic, environmental, and housing justice concerns. The DIY THM pushes back against institutional scientific norms through shared engineering experiments and building practices. Yet calls by tiny homers to "return" to an era of smaller living ignore modernist projects that have provided differential access to larger homes along lines of race, gender, class, disability, and employment. This erasure misses opportunities to promote intersectional structural changes in housing, debt, and economy. I use Roy's articulation of "asking different questions" and Tuhiwai Smith's decolonizing methodologies as starting points for a decolonial feminist STS understanding of building sciences within the DIY THM. I engage feminist science studies, decolonial feminisms, feminist political economy, and feminist materialisms to understand how tensions are negotiated through the intimate, embodied labor of salvaging materials and sharing engineering knowledge to build tiny homes on wheels.

The "turn towards tiny" recalls Sara Ahmed's argument not to reify "new" materialisms, nor to forget existing feminist work in all its complexity. I argue that the Tiny House Movement would benefit from a greater engagement with feminist knowledge production, not only in the building sciences, but also in the histories of racism, genocide, sexism, ableism, classism, and dispossession that inform the THM's larger social justice goals. In making these claims, I draw on discourse analysis of tiny house websites; survey results; and preliminary research conducted at tiny house building workshops in the USA.

Panel T051
Feminist Postcolonial STS