The (Dis)Comforts of Home: Cross-cultural Perspectives on Domestic Energy Use

An Interdisciplinary Symposium at UCL. 13-14 Sept 2012

About this event

The symposium

The (Dis)Comforts of Home is a two-day symposium (13-14 September 2012) exploring how comparative cultural perspectives on the concepts of ‘home’ and ‘comfort’ can help us understand, learn from, and influence the behaviour that drives domestic energy consumption. The symposium features papers by some fifteen academics and postgraduates from the School of European Languages, Culture and Society, SSEES, Geography, Anthropology, Science and Technology Studies, the UCL Energy Institute, and more. It also features two documentary screenings with panel discussion, both of which are open to the public (see The Light Bulb Conspiracy and Philips Radio).

Generously funded by the Faculty Institute of Graduate Studies of UCL Faculty of Arts and Humanities, and the UCL Grand Challenge of Sustainable Cities.


Why do we find it so hard to remember to switch off the lights? Can our preferences for homes that are warm, cool, bright, dim, cosy or airy be explained by culture and tradition? How culturally specific are concepts like ‘home’, ‘comfort’ and ‘discomfort’? Can a cross-cultural perspective on these concepts help us to understand how we use energy to make our houses into homes – and how we can reduce energy consumption without reducing comfort levels?

The built environment is a major consumer of energy, accounting for approximately 38% of total global primary energy use and 25% of energy-related CO2 emissions. Energy use in the home can be reduced by measures such as the design and construction of energy-efficient housing, low-carbon retro-fitting of existing housing stock, and ‘smart’ monitoring and control systems. But human behaviour remains key to achieving sustainable reductions in domestic energy consumption. Engaging users in the design of policy and technology is one way to understand, learn from, and influence energy use in the home. This symposium explores the potential of another approach to understanding the interactions of people, buildings and technologies: interrogating the concepts of ‘home’,‘comfort’, and ‘discomfort’ from intercultural perspectives. Such concepts are culturally and historically contingent. They are rooted in, and constitutive of, imaginings and practices at individual, local, national and global scales. Consideration of the cultural and affective dimensions of ‘home’ and ‘comfort’ may therefore be key to understanding, learning from, and influencing behaviour that drives domestic energy consumption.

View the speakers’ abstracts via the programme as it develops.


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Eventbrite - The (Dis)Comforts of Home. Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Domestic Energy Use

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