UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Housing and the Proper Performance of American Motherhood, 1940-2005 Lauster, Nathanael Thomas, 1972-


Current approaches to the link between family and housing tend not to closely examine cultural change. In this paper I attempt to provide a theoretical framework, rooted in symbolic interaction, dramaturgy, and critical theory, well-suited to the study of cultural change. I apply this critical dramaturgical framework to explore the changing link between housing as a stage prop and the privileged performance of motherhood. I argue that redefinition of the proper performance of motherhood by the privileged constitutes an important aspect of cultural change, making positive evaluations of motherhood more difficult to achieve without a proper house. This results in an increase in stage fright, or women avoiding motherhood because they feel ill prepared to perform it properly, and an increase in the devaluing of certain categories of mother. I use US census data collected through the IPUMS project to provide evidence of these trends, where available, and suggest further avenues of research.

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