Feeling at Home in the Neighborhood: Belonging, the House and the Plaza in Helsinki and Madrid Articles uri icon

publication date

  • March 2019

start page

  • 213

end page

  • 237


  • 1


  • 18

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1535-6841


  • Drawing on multisited ethnographic fieldwork in two historic, attractive, and socially mixed neighborhoods, Kumpula in Helsinki and Malasana in Madrid, this paper examines what makes people feel at home (or not) in their neighborhood. Marrying the literatures on social belonging and materiality, we analyze the interactions through which local places, people, and materials become familiar and personal. We identify the house in Kumpula and the plaza in Madrid as "everyday totems" that weave local life and community together. In both neighborhoods, the testimonies of home are accompanied with an attachment to the local totem and related lifestyle, but the house and the plaza generate different everyday politics of belonging. House-based belonging in Kumpula requires resources and long-term engagement that over time contributes to a personal, but rather exclusive web of belonging. Plaza-based belonging in Malasana is more inclusive and elastic, but joining the web of belonging requires time and sociability.


  • materiality; parks