Domestic fortress

Fear and the new home front

Domestic Fortress offers a critical analysis of the contemporary home and its close relationship to fear and security. It considers the important connection between the private home, political life and the economy that we term tessellated neoliberalism. The book considers the nucleus of the domestic home as part of a much larger archipelago frontline of homes and gated communities that appear as a new home front set against diverse sources of social anxiety. These range from questions of invasion (such as burglary or identity theft) to those of security (the home as a financial resource in retirement and as a place of refuge in an unpredictable world). A culture of fear has been responded to through increasingly emphatic retreats by homeowners into fortified dwellings, palatial houses, concealed bunker pads and gated developments. Many feature elaborate security measures; alarms, CCTV systems, motion-sensing lights and impregnable panic rooms. Domestic Fortress locates the anxieties driving these responses to the corporate and political manufacturing of fear, the triumph of neoliberal models of homeownership and related modes of social individualisation and risk that permeate society today. Domestic Fortress draws on perspectives and research from criminology, urban studies and sociology to offer a sense of the private home as a site of wavering anxiety and security, exclusion and warmth, alongside dreams of retreat and autonomy that mesh closely with the defining principles of neoliberal governance.

Even as the home is acknowledged to play a vital role in sheltering us from the elements so it has now come to be a locus around which many anxieties are shut-out. The home allows us to lock out the daily hardships of life, but is also a site from which we witness a wide range of troubling phenomena: the insecurities of the workplace, plans for our future welfare, internationalized terror, geo-political warfare, ecological catastrophes, feelings of loss and uncertainty around identity, to say nothing of the daily risks of flood, fire and other disasters.

The home now plays a complex dual role that slips between offering us protection from these worries while also offering the nightmare of its own possible invasion, erosion or destruction. On top of these concerns entire industries have been built that sell a war against strangers, dirt and disaster. This of course includes the insurance industry itself, but also the use of technologies that both protect the home and make it effectively more impregnable to casual social contact as well as the proliferation of products devoted to domestic cleanliness. Domestic Fortress considers the fantasies and realities of dangers to the contemporary home and its inhabitants and details the wide range of actions taken in the pursuit of total safety.

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