Embodied Domestics, Embodied Politics: Women, Home, and Agoraphobia

Human Studies 34 (1):1-21 (2011)
Agoraphobia is commonly considered to be a fear of outside, open, or crowded spaces, and is treated with therapies that work on acclimating the agoraphobic to external places she would otherwise avoid. I argue, however, that existential phenomenology provides the resources for an alternative interpretation and treatment of agoraphobia that locates the problem of the disorder not in something lying beyond home, but rather in a flawed relationship with home itself. More specifically, I demonstrate that agoraphobia is the lived body expression of a person who has developed an inward-turning tendency with respect to being-at-home, and who finds herself, as a result, vulnerable and even incapacitated when attempting to emerge into the public arena as a fully participatory agent. I consider this thesis in light of the fact that since World War I agoraphobia has been diagnosed significantly more in women than in men; indeed, one study found women to be 89% more likely than men to suffer from agoraphobia. I conclude that agoraphobia is a disorder that stands as an emblematic expression of the ongoing pathology of being a woman in contemporary society–a disorder that reflects that even today women belong to a political world in which they are not able to feel properly at-home
Keywords Agoraphobia  Existential phenomenology  Existential health  Lived body  Gender  Agency  Being-at-home
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DOI 10.1007/s10746-011-9172-2
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