The Politics of Housing Metaphors

Challenging Images of Migration and Patriarchy

  • Laurin Mackowitz
  • Daniel Lorenz
Keywords: critical metaphorology, concepts of architecture, anti-migration politics, languages of patriarchy, the poetics of homelessness


Political metaphors condition social reality and mediate authority. One repeatedly used metaphor in discourses about migration and refuge is the misconception that ‘the state is a house.’ Far from only defining the modalities of inclusion and exclusion, metaphors of houses and housing evoke patriarchal political relationships between guests and hosts, homeless and homeowners, the household’s head and his subjects, and the man and his women. Houses present themselves to us in ambiguous, even contradictory ways in that they both shelter and imprison. Furthermore, in spite of a general need for accommodation the state fails to provide material housing, only feigning the imagination of security. Therefore, ‘housing’ appears to be a key paradox of nationalist and chauvinist discourse. Figurative language is, however, unfinished, which is why our images of houses, charged with the theology, anthropology, politics, and language of foundations, buildings, and walls, may be challenged by critique and interpretation. Developing a critical metaphorology, committed to analyzing the framed arguments and underlying contexts of said discourses justifying patriarchy and nationalism, we describe the choice between inhabiting and abandoning ‘the house.’ Ultimately, we present counter-narratives about decaying structures of power and propose ways to take ‘housing’ issues to the streets.