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Home-sick, Home-care – Pilot Research Studio where art and academia meet

Home-sick, Home-care – Research Studio where art and academia meet (pilot at UCM[1])

During the last two years of her life, Michai’s grandmother resided in the living room of the house that Michai called his ‘home’. Inge had a similar experience when her father spent the last months of his life in the living room of her parental ‘home’. For Michai and Inge these ‘homes’ had been safe havens from which they could fly out to discover the world. ‘Home’ had been, so to say, the starting point in their lives. For their father and grandmother, however, the same ‘home’ became their final destination. These experiences of a place called ‘home’ as both an ‘entrance’ and an ‘exit’ to life fascinate Michai and Inge.

Their father and grandmother living in their living rooms had a great impact on their experiences of ‘home’. “We noticed how it changed the ‘dynamics’ in the household and our feeling of ‘home,’” they explain. For Michai, his grandmother became a part of his ‘home’. Inge’s father had always been a part of hers. Yet, his illness changed her experience of ‘home’ as well. Moreover, Michai and Inge noticed the impact that the need to care for their sick relatives had on their mothers. It put their lives ‘on hold’. Michai suggests, however, that perhaps ‘need’ is not the right word: “my mum chose to take her mother out of a nursing home in order to take care of her in her own home” he says. “For, she thought the nursing home where her mother used to live was ‘too impersonal’, too little of a ‘home’ perhaps”. Inges family had never considered putting her father in a ‘home’. Inge recalls: “My father valued being at home very much, so it was decided as a matter of course that my mother would take care of him and that I would support as much as I could”.

On the fourth of January 2013 Michai’s family gathered together to bid their farewells to his grandmother. Inge’s family did the same with her father almost exactly four years later. Michai’s grandma and Inge’s dad both died peacefully, in their ‘homes’. But what had become of these ‘homes’? Inge and Michai agree that providing care at home had changed their experiences of ‘home’. Michai wonders whether his home had also become his grandma’s. Inge asks whether her home is still ‘home’ now that it had also been a place of death.

Inspired by their personal experiences, Michai and Inge discovered a shared interest in researching this topic, regardless of their differences in background and ways of working. They agree that there is a social urgency to address the topic, as providing care at home affects the lives of large and increasing numbers of people. In the Netherlands, for instance, current state policy seeks to reduce the number of people moving into nursing homes or institutionalized care facilities. Instead, private citizens are encouraged to provide care ‘at home’ as long as possible. In the year that Michai’s grandma passed away, the word ‘participatiesamenleving’ (‘participation society’), which summarizes this perspective, was voted ‘word of the year’. As a result, ‘home’ is increasingly being forwarded as the place to stay as long as possible, and as a model for institutionalized care. Research shows that for example elderly people with dementia indeed tend to remain ‘at home’ longer as the average time someone with dementia lives in a nursing home decreased from 485 days in 2013 to 430 days in 2015 (ActiZ 2015).

So, this research project takes as a vantage point the question ‘what is home?’. And Inge and Michai are specifically interested in studying experiences of home in situations where home is to be combined with providing care. How does the need to ‘care’ influence how people experience what for them is ‘home’?

Who are Michai and Inge?

Michai is a theatre artist. You could call what he does ‘documentary theatre’. Inge is a teacher at UCM. Her background is in management in the arts. This project will start from creating ‘a documentary’ (as Michai calls it) based on the (qualitative) research that will be conducted. Inge gained experience in doing qualitative research in her PhD project. She does participant observation with theatre artists to learn about their ways of working and perspectives on doing research. Michai has also been doing research. In his project at the Master Theatre at the Institute of Performative Arts he addressed the question ‘what is a home?’. Inspired by scholarly work and based on a large number of observations and interviews he created the performance De passant, which is staged in five different countries this year.

Michai and Inge invite a team of students to join their research project. The research will serve as input for Inge’s PhD thesis as well as a possible sequel to Michai’s performance De passant. So, although we are not sure about the precise outcome or ‘end product’ that this project will lead to, the aims of applying our research findings somehow in a performance-setting and creating ‘something’ that can be presented to diverse audiences is clear. Michai has suggested that perhaps we will even end up making a (mini)performance of our own as part of the research, who knows…

Who should sign up for this project?

Inge and Michai welcome a group of Bachelor students from different backgrounds to join an interdisciplinary research team consisting of both theatre students and UCM students. Hence, they are recruiting from both UCM and Zuyd Hogeschool’s Institute of Performative Arts. They aim at the interest of students who are enthusiastic about doing research and who are interested in finding out how people experience ‘home’ and how such experiences might change in situations where ‘care’ is needed. The project is particularly for those who are not afraid to leave the beaten tracks and open their minds to what ‘doing research’ could mean in the different contexts of the arts and academia.

The project aims at the interest of students who are in their 2nd or 3rd year. Selected students will collaborate with UCM students who are in their 3rd, 4th or 5th semester.

The project will take place from February 4th until July 5th 2019. From February 4th until May 31st  the workload is one day per week. From June 10th until July 5th the workload is full time (about 40 hours per week).

The project allows for experimentation with new and unfamiliar ways of conducting research, implementing for instance methods from the social sciences or humanities in your work. We are aiming for about 8 students, who all contribute based on their personal background and interests, defining their specific angle for the project and their own research question within the context of the broad theme of ‘experiences of home and care’.

Because we are piloting a new initiative, we are looking for open-minded students who are drawn to the content of the project as well as interested in helping to further develop the Research Studio as a part of the UCM curriculum.

Sign up…

To sign up please introduce yourself to Michai and Inge by a means of your own choice (so it’s up to you whether you for instance write a brief motivation letter and/or take photos, bring an object, draw, make a short movie clip or find whatever means you deem most suitable) in which you address the following three questions:

What is it that makes you feel ‘home’ wherever you feel at home?
What is your personal motivation for participating in this project? (i.e. why do you find it interesting?)
What is your academic motivation for participating in this project? (i.e. how does the project fit in your curriculum and/or future plans and what knowledge and/or skills are you bringing to the research team?)
The deadline for handing in your personal introduction is Friday November 30th.  Depending on the nature of your work, you can either hand it in via email to inge.romgens@maastrichtuniversity.nl or bring it in person to Inge’s office at UCM (Zwingelput 4, room 1.034. If necessary ask the secretaries).

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact

Inge Römgens (inge.romgens[at]maastrichtuniversity.nl ) or Ruth Benschop (ruth.benschop[at]zuyd.nl)



[1] University College Maastricht is part of Maastricht University. This pilot is offered as part of a collaboration between the Research Centre for Arts, Autonomy and the Public Sphere (Faculty of the Arts, Zuyd) and UCM.