Lecturer discusses meaning of ‘home,’ homelessness
Joseph Clark | Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Professor Julia Faisst, assistant professor of American Studies at Germany’s Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt and the 2018 Max Kade Distinguished Visiting Professor at Notre Dame, delivered a lecture entitled “Nowhere Matters: The Unmaking Of The American Home”; an in-depth look at the concept of the home particularly for American college graduates and those displaced by evictions and foreclosures.
“The threat of losing one’s home and becoming temporarily, or not, unhoused is no longer perceived as exclusive to the lower classes,” Faisst said. “But something that holds the middle class equally in its grip.”
To explore this concept, Faisst examined Damon Casarez’s collection of photographs entitled “Boomerang Kids,” which presents images of college graduates living with their parents. Faisst described living at home after college as an emerging “new and permanent life stage” and reality for middle-class millennials.
“Casarez depicts those who returned to a home that is no longer their own home in a radically-different confusing post-industrial economy,” Faisst said. “An economy that puts a new twist on old notions of class belongings, as well as the traditional notion of homelessness.”
Faisst noted the difference between inside and outside presented in the images. In reference to one of Casarez’s pictures of a Minnesota resident looking out into her backyard, Faisst explained she is looking outward to a world where making money is difficult, and thus the subject’s thoughts turn inward. She also referred to class status of those depicted in the photos to illustrate her point.
“They own fancy pieces of technology and attire, and yet are poor,” she said. “Homelessness now is to be found inside the home.”
Faisst also considered examples of “Eviction photography,” particularly that of John Moore’s collection entitled “Evicted.”
“Foreclosure photography has already defined an era that will mark American society for decades to come,” she said.
Faisst discussed one of Moore’s photographs illustrating a man and his wife sitting on a bench following the foreclosure of their home.
“[This] angered resident had been asked to remove his family possessions within the customary 24 hours so as to not have to pay exorbitant fees to store them,” Faisst said.
When the resident asked Moore what he was doing on site, Faisst explained, Moore was allowed to stay after explaining his objective.
“[He said he] was very sorry … and was taking photos to show what the entire country was going through. And he let [him] stay,” she said.
At the conclusion of the talk, some of the audience members took issue with Faisst’s use of the term ‘homeless’ in her discussions.
“This is a critique I run into quite a bit,” she said. “My attempt with this project is to open up the range and to employ those who never thought they’d be employed. … Having those people look at homelessness from another vantage point. Not as something that’s on the street, … but something that’s not even just on the doorstep, but on the inside as well.”