Domesticity 1: Introduction

Roy Herndon Smith

I am beginning this series of posts on domesticity on January 30, 2020. Today, an editorial in The New York Times, “Is the World Ready for the Coronavirus?,” highlighted the reason why a discussion of domesticity is crucial at this time. The editorial states one reason China’s efforts to contain the virus may “fail” “is a lack of public trust: Control measures work only if people abide by them. And people are much less likely to follow orders when they don’t trust that the authorities issuing them have their best interests at heart.” Effective social responses to crises require trust. Trust emerges, inheres in, and grows in domesticity, “home or family life” (Dictionary, Apple version 2.2.2 2005-2017). Lack of trust, including “public trust,” is both a sign and cause of weakness in domesticity, the ways we make our homes, families, and lives together.

Lack of trust, not only in government, but also, more broadly, each other and nature, increasingly characterises humanity throughout the world. This lack of trust and the associated weakness in domesticity lie at the heart both of the multiple existential crises—for instance, the climate crisis (which, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” observes, is one cause of the increase in “the rate at which new pathogens,” such as the coronavirus, “emerge” [New York Times editorial cited above]), the extinction crisis, the anti-democratic crisis, the anti-human rights crisis, and the refugee crisis—we are facing as a species and of our failed responses to these crises.

In order to respond more effectively to these and other crises, we need to attend closely to what trust and domesticity are, what nurtures them, how trust and domesticity weaken, and how to strengthen them.