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Against the 'tyranny' of single-family dwelling: insights from Christiania at 40

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Helen Jarvis



Ownership of a single family dwelling remains the dominant aspiration in market-led economies. In a hyper-privatized landscape it is widely assumed that people will not share housing except in extraordinary circumstances. Yet, there is a long and rich history of counter-cultural groups who imagine and practise alternative forms of shared housekeeping and collaborative dwelling. This paper draws on first hand observations of daily life from the counter-cultural community of Christiania, at a critical moment in a 40 year history of state threatened ‘normalization’. Christiania is a valuable lens through which to re-imagine affordable, adaptable, sustainable homes and neighbourhoods because it disrupts the myth that cultures of home-making and privacy are confined to matters of housing and housing markets alone. The paper argues that sharing practices are shaped by the interdependence of social and material infrastructures of daily life. For example, the cultures of home-making and adapted dwellings in Christiania provide practical as well as social support for fluid family composition, alleviating the upheaval usually associated with household transitions. This paper challenges the assumed superiority of the single family dwelling on grounds that it is unsustainable, socially divisive and represents a barrier to gender democracy.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Jarvis H

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Gender, Place & Culture

Year: 2013

Volume: 20

Issue: 8

Pages: 939-959

Print publication date: 14/01/2013

Date deposited: 04/03/2013

ISSN (print): 0966-369X

ISSN (electronic): 1360-0524

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2012.753583


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