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Title: Encouraging providence : uncertainty, wellbeing, and the making of new American futures in the home
Author: Bird, Tess
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis considers how households in Providence, Rhode Island in the United States negotiate uncertainty and sustain wellbeing in their everyday lives. Drawing on twelve months of participant observation and interviews in eighteen middle class households in recent states of transition, the thesis introduces the concept of 'everyday uncertainty,' which encapsulates embodied senses of not knowing and conditions with unknown outcomes. Everyday uncertainty emerges as relational and productive, mediated through social, material, and individual means, and as entangled in the desire to cultivate wellbeing or the good life. Adapting an everyday material culture approach to the home, the ethnography attends to material culture and everyday practice, participant narratives, the atmosphere of space, and the home as a part of the nation and city. For the middle class homes described,ontological security, aspiration, improvisation and creativity, and the material environment of the city emerge as core facets of everyday uncertainty and the making of the good life. I draw their experiences together to argue that the 'frontier' of new American futures can be found in the home. This study of 'everyday uncertainty' sheds light on what people have to negotiate in conditions that are not particularly precarious or insecure. The ordinariness of everyday domestic lives helps begin to untangle the nuances between innate human improvisation and the neoliberal expectation of individual adaptability, particularly in the United States context.
Supervisor: Shaw, Alison ; Daniels, Inge ; Ewart, Ian ; Ulijaszek, Stanley Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available