Making things anthropologically strange

Harold Garfinkel once talked about doing sociology as making things “anthropological strange”. I made this point in my first book “The Myth of Home Ownership” (Routledge Direct Edition, 1981 Ch.6 “Swedish cost-renting in crisis” p.91), the introductory paragraph on Sweden (Ch.6).

At the time I wrote this in the late 1970s it was wise advice to follow. It was before Thatcherism and Reaganomics became the guiding beacon for a whole generation of housing researchers.

I argued that we should not make the mistake of assuming that because Sweden is a rich, highly urbanised industrial society we can assume its tenure patterns are similar to Britain, Australia or the USA.

It was to become modified over the succeeding decades until Sweden lost its place among the leaders of economic development, and could adapt to the neoliberal ideology of home ownership. But that is another story…

For me this meant not imposing my preconceptions on housing: a distancing of the object from my “self”, so as not to be bound down by misleading familiar categories, a sort of intellectual laziness.

This was for me the value of Harold Garfinkel’s way of controlling our natural way of looking at the world around us.

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