Inhabit Seminar

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Pauline Destrée, University of Oxford


Pauline Destrée started researching the impact of sound in the domestic sphere during her undergraduate degree at University College London, under the supervision of Victor Buchli. Pauline’s current research focuses on the politics of noise in the domestic sphere, the tenancy project in council housing architecture in London, and the nature of noise in the broader sensory experience of the home. She is currently reading for a Master’s in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology at the University of Oxford.


This paper is an anthropological investigation of the everyday politics of noise in a North London estate, through a focus on neighbours’ relationships and their sonic production of an ‘imagined community’. It argues that the nature of ‘noise’ as an affective, tactile and embodied nexus of relationality becomes defiling and contagious where intimacies are forced, yet actively resisted through spatial rituals. This contestation is situated within the tenancy project, as informed and constrained by an architectural ideology of ‘togetherness’ and visual surveillance – against which noise offers an alternative space of (a)sociality. As suggested in my informants’ accounts, noise is racialized as dissonant ‘otherness’, betraying an engrained auditory habitus which challenges somatic normativity. Against the apparent ‘destructive’ nature of noise, this paper investigates the paradoxical productive capacity of noise as the performative, redundant and accumulative failure of a moral order, as informed by a fragmented collective sonic consciousness, enlarging a space of reiterative negotiation of ‘home’.

About inHabit

The inHabit: Text, Object and Domestic Space research network brings together leading practitioners from a variety of institutions and disciplines to move beyond compartmentalized perspectives to embrace the complex and multi-faceted nature of domestic life. inHabit focuses on the relationships between people, objects and texts within domestic space. These are a series of concepts which are usually considered and conceptualized within discrete disciplinary frameworks, including (but not limited to) literary studies, anthropology, archeology, histories of art, architecture and design. 

Domestic space is an important, yet hitherto neglected, framework for exploring how the conflicting demands of being an individual and being part of a group are expressed, negotiated and accommodated. The inHabit network will explore those tensions which, manifested in the domestic domain, underlie human existence, through binaries like ease and unease, comfort and discomfort, sufficiency and insufficiency, security and anxiety, continuity and innovation, familiarity and novelty.

For further information please contact:

Oliver Cox ( - Director, Thames Valley Country House Partnership
Dr Antony Buxton(  - Department for Continuing Education
Dr Linda Hulin (


inHabit: Text, Object and Domestic Space

Audience: Open to all