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Episode Summary

Observing the fraught, tense, and ambivalent nature of our homes—not just our apartments and houses, but the very meaning of "home."

Life under a pandemic forces us to see things in a new way. Just one of those things is the home we live in. The space that should feel most familiar is for some of us starting to feel quite strange. At turns in our day or our week, our homes may go from feeling like a retreat to feeling more like a prison. Of course, this is itself a privileged experience, as essential workers and the homeless face a different reality. In this episode, Miroslav Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz observe the fraught, tense, and ambivalent nature of our homes—not just our apartments and houses, but the very meaning of the concept. They consider the inequities that have been hiding in plain sight; the definition of home as an essentially permeable, porous, and breathing organism; how crisis upsets the resonance of the beautiful ordinary; an explanation of the ambivalence of home, that is, a place of both hospitality and hostility; and finally, a concluding meditation on the parable of the Prodigal Son and the "unhoming of home.”

  • 0:00 Introduction and teaser.
  • 1:17 Introductory summary of the podcast.
  • 2:14 Ryan McAnnally-Linz begins.
  • 3:10  Ryan: “The world outside ourselves and our most immediate environs has been fundamentally altered by quarantine, by staying at home, by social distancing. It makes everything seem distant and mediated. But the really surprising thing to me is that even home feels less real; it’s less home-like. And you’d think that spending so much time at home would make it feel like it’s the realest thing right now. It should feel especially like home, but, for me at least, it doesn’t. And I wonder why that is.”
  • 3:50 Introduction of the topic of the ambivalence of home--how the meaning of home is often fraught with complexities and dualities.
  • 4:00 Similarly, how covid-19 reveals with greater clarity many of the inequalities that have always been, revealing especially through the lens of the home.
  • 6:10 Supporting resources for sufferers and perpetrators of abuse.
  • 7:40 Miroslav joins the conversation.
  • 8:20 Home, the role of tending, and disarray.
  • 12:00 Miroslav on the growing number of artists who are making their private spaces public.
  • 12:47 Miroslav: “To me it is so interesting that objects of beauty have become important for us; we want to nurture the space to be beautiful in a way with which we can resonate....”
  • 13:39 “... and home is supposed to be this place in which we resonate, resonate with things that are at home--they are our things; they speak to us; they have spoken to us over time.
  • 14:05 “And yet, under a crisis situation, they start to not resonate.”
  • 14:20 Home and dissonance in former Yugoslavia between refugees and hosts in the time of war.
  • 15:20 Miroslav: “I live in a home which has a yard which has this typical New England stone fence, and there are a lot of portions of the fence that are falling apart a little bit. I find myself going out every day when I am spending time with my daughter and mending that fence. I want to set it right. Why do I spend so much time wanting to make this fence nice, when I don’t specifically spend much time in my garden?”
  • 17:57 Ryan: “It’s getting harder for me to imagine other people’s experiences as I stay located in one place and the world seems to shrink a bit. I’m reading way too much news-- I think that’s relatively common these days--but it feels more distant than usual. Because things that aren’t happening in this space aren’t a part of my physical engagement in the world.”
  • 18:30 Miroslav on the porousness of home. “The home is a breathing organism, with open doors and open windows--and sometimes open people come in.”
  • 20:04 Miroslav: “I remember when I bought my house, my dad was chuckling as I was so proudly telling him about how I was an owner of this house. And he told me ‘a house needs a servant, not a master.” I think the other way of putting it was, ‘you think you own this place, but really this place owns you.’”
  • 21:30 Ryan on how covid-19 has revealed inequities that were already going on and, at the same time, has concealed those same inequities.
  • 22:45 Miroslav against those celebrities who call the virus “the great equalizer”.
  • 25:00 Miroslav on the beauty that can come in homes.
  • 26:15 Miroslav on the violence that can come in homes.
  • 26:26 Miroslav: “At one point when I was talking about violence in the world, I have said that the violence that happens in battlefields is nothing compared to the amount of violence that happens, and even the ferocity of the violence, that takes place in homes.”
  • 29:10 Ryan on literal contagion that separates home from “others”, and how he is troubled that that will possibly inform analogies of otherness from now on.
  • 31:20 The ambivalence of home in the Garden of Eden.
  • 32:20 The ambivalence of home in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
  • 32:30 Miroslav’s interpretation of the parable as the “un-homing of the home.” See Exclusion and Embrace, Chapter III: Embrace.
  • 35:23 Miroslav: “Home has to be a living and breathing and reality--relationships are dynamic. And I think that is the challenge before which we face. That’s why home’s are undeniably beautiful, because there’s this dynamism and possibility of the intimacy of following the changes and shifts and lives of people; participating with them can be fresh and dynamic and extraordinary.”
  • 37:15 Closing
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