Mobile 'Homes': An Ethnographic Study with American Vandwellers

Authors: Stephanie Murray*, Brock University
Topics: Qualitative Research
Keywords: Mobility,Nomadism,Ethnography,Home
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Oak Alley, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


At present, numerous studies exist which focus on the practices and mobility of “snowbirds” and other RV nomads travelling within North America. And yet, moving alongside these nomads is another group of highly mobile vehicle-dwellers who seem to have gone unnoticed by scholars. United under the “vanlife” hashtag, these individuals refer to themselves as “vanlifers,” “vandwellers,” and “van nomads.” In order to learn about the meanings that these vandwellers assign to their mobility, and the ways in which that mobility might change the way that geographers conceptualize the scale of the home, I moved into my van and attended a number of van gatherings in Colorado and Washington State between July 1st and August 20th, 2017. This paper presents the findings from 9 weeks of participatory ethnographic research, during which 10 face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted with 7 couples and 3 single “vanlifers.” By employing a "mobile metaphysics" in my analysis of the resulting participatory and interview data, I hope to contribute to recent efforts to expand geography’s focus beyond an ontology of fixity and place, and draw attention to the practices and meanings embedded in the movements of American vandwellers.

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