Aesthetics in displacement – Hmong, Somali and Mexican home-making practices in Minnesota

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Personalizing a residential environment has long been recognized among the dimensions of home. Little research though has focused on understanding the home-making process of aesthetic construction under conditions of displacement. Questions still abound: What does the notion of aesthetics entail in displacement? Do immigrant groups construct a sense of difference in the home, and if so, how? And, what can impede their efforts? Answering these questions sheds light on the opportunities that arise when interdisciplinary connections between architectural, housing and consumer studies are formed. Using data from in-depth interviews conducted in the homes of three displaced groups now living in Minnesota (Hmong, Somali and Mexicans), this paper explores the above questions and proposes theoretical and practical directions for supporting diverse housing needs. Delving into the living and socializing areas, the discussion uncovers the material and immaterial forms that aesthetic constructions can take: from decorative objects to colours, textures, materials, light levels, furniture placement and type as well as sound and smell. Interviewees varied in the number of cultural expressions they employed and degree to which they invested time, energy and funds to personalize their homes. Their efforts though were often purposive: a means to connect to a homeland, pass down one's cultural traditions to future generations, foster alliances with others from the same cultural group and a form of constructing difference. Particularly insightful are the impediments those interviewed endured in constructing an aesthetic they resonated with. Factors like spatiality, religious beliefs, regulations, income limitations, construction norms and availability of objects to purchase often suppressed their attempts to transform the spaces they lived in into places they can relate to, threatening in the process the group's cultural identity definition and creating stress in their lives. Given that home-making is found to be inextricably tied to consumer studies through behaviours like purchasing products, the paper closes with the implications of rethinking aesthetics as well as directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-549
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Consumer Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Aesthetics
  • Culture
  • Displacement
  • Housing
  • Identity
  • Meaning of home


Dive into the research topics of 'Aesthetics in displacement – Hmong, Somali and Mexican home-making practices in Minnesota'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this