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‘Just Bricks and Mortar?’ – Animating and Deanimating the Irish Mortgaged House

Ackroyd, Gabrielle Bethan; (2019) ‘Just Bricks and Mortar?’ – Animating and Deanimating the Irish Mortgaged House. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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‘It’s just bricks and mortar’ was a commonly used phrase heard in the Republic of Ireland in the drawn-out aftermath of the Global Financial Crash of 2008, as people tried to rationalise their relationship to houses that had declined significantly in value. This thesis explores attachment to the house-home in this pressured situation. It is based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork conducted via a mortgage debt advice organisation in Dublin, with people who were in the often fraught yet not uncommon situation of being at risk of losing their houses-homes, having fallen behind on mortgage payments and being unable to pay their mortgages. Through engaging with those losing their houses, it was explicated that post-purchase houses had undergone transformations to become socially alive, which I describe as a form of animation. This process is described in the first part of this thesis. The concept of animation reinvigorates a longstanding yet somewhat overlooked distinction within Anthropology concerning a higher order of material relations between people and objects and materials, whereby there is a higher tier of attachment, closeness and importance, driven by ‘the force in the thing’ (Mauss, 1990). The particular bond between people and their house-homes underpinned by ‘the force in the thing’ unfolded as people lost their houses-homes, and this is considered in the second half of the thesis. Tied to their houses, interlocutors experienced the downward value transformations of their houses in intense detail, deliberating over the worth of the materials of the house, and experiencing searing bodily symptoms. As they lost and gave up houses, people then actively deanimated them through a series of practices, in order enforce separation and engage more viscerally with the goal of reducing them to ‘bricks and mortar’. Whilst questions of livingness in relation to materials have up until relatively recently drawn limited ‘theoretical mileage’ within Anthropology (Holbraad, 2007), there is a call to engage with these questions in the face of claims being made outside of the discipline. In considering the processes of animation and deanimation, this thesis responds to specific claims being made in relation to ‘aliveness’ of materials, and advocating a key role for ethnographically-engaged work in these debates going forward.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: ‘Just Bricks and Mortar?’ – Animating and Deanimating the Irish Mortgaged House
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10073159
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