Illustration von Person in einem Wohnzimmer

Narratives of Home and Dwelling:
Cultures, Crises, Utopia

International Conference of the Research Center ‘Cultures in Contact’

January 24–27, 2024

Claudiana, University of Innsbruck


Dorothee Birke (Department of English), Alena Heinritz (Department of Comparative Literature) and Christoph Singer (Department of English)


In times of global and local crises and transformation, the spaces we call our homes take on two different main functions. On the one hand, living spaces represent hopes and fears. On the other hand, these spaces become the locale of economic, ecological, and political changes and challenges. Living spaces appear as sites of crisis, particularly when housing becomes an object of economic speculation, when climate change affects the ecological perspectives on and methods of constructing living spaces, and when traditional concepts of sedentary living are being put to the test in a world characterized by mobility and migration. At the same time, living spaces – especially in pandemic times – have become an (often precarious) retreat, particularly when and where public and private spheres intersect.

From a cultural-historical perspective, a look at practices of dwelling and living reveals processes of subject formation and highlights negotiations of economic, affective, and aesthetic structures as well as a dialectic of exclusion and inclusion. How closely such understandings are tied to cultural context is already attested to by the inherent complexity of translating the German verb ‘wohnen’ into English, with the possibilities ‘dwelling’ or ‘living’ expressing different cultural understandings, philosophies and approaches.

This interdisciplinary conference of the Research Centre ‘Cultures in Contact’ (KiK) at the University of Innsbruck seeks to explore crises and utopias of dwelling and living in a broad range of historical and cross-cultural contexts. We approach these practices as cultural imaginaries, which are translated into practices. Concomitantly, the conference will trace narratives and other discursive formations that make dwelling and living the subject of representation, discussion, and reflection.

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