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A house of one's own - The Eigenheim within rural women's biographies

This paper has taken a first look at the processes of house-building in women's life courses and the ‘co-evolution’ of the family and their domicile. The building of a house of their own is an important episode within the courses of women's lives and, in many cases, marks the transition between an employment and urban-oriented lifestyle towards a family- and village-oriented lifestyle. I employ a practice-theory perspective on the German notion of the Eigenheim, the house of one's own, as a materialization of gendered rural culture. Thus, the co-constituent processes of placed female identities are revealed. Drawing on research from women's life courses (standardized questionnaire and 32 in-depth interviews) in four villages in Germany, I show how aspects of identity are connected with a rural-urban distinction and how this influences the practices of housebuilding and family formation. Thereby, a specific rurality centered on family life and house ownership is ‘done’ and materialized. The practice- and materiality-perspective employed in this article allows for two conclusions: First, rurality is more than an ‘imaginary’ or ‘ideational’ category. To re-value the material dimensions of rurality calls for a careful account of rural diversity and local specificities. Second, with regard to rural gender issues, concepts of male hegemony have to give way to more dynamic and complex gender relations when the agency of artefacts is take into consideration.



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