Exoticising the domestic

Many of us are spending a lot more time in our rooms/apartments/houses than we are used to! And so, it seems appropriate to ‘exoticise the domestic’ (to misuse a term by Pierre Bordeaux which Michael White drew on – more on that below).

Grace Drahm is a narrative practitioner (see here for a presentation about her work), the mother of Tileah Drahm-Butler  AND a brilliant cleaner. This project began when Cheryl White and David Denborough asked for a video from Grace about how to make a sink really sparkle. 

This is what Grace sent through: 


So fabulous was this video, that a project was born. Grace said she would only do further videos IF Tileah and Justin first showed they had engaged with the lessons of the first one … 

Here is their video: 

Manja Visschedijk responds with sweeping skills! 


It’s also possible to view Manja’s Friday Afternoon video: Re-storied and Restored: Queer Family Conundrums across the Generations by Manja Visschedijk and Gipsy Hosking

Gene Combs offers a  Freedman-Combs pasta tomato sauce recipe! 


French mayonnaise from Pierre Blanc-Sahnoun! 


Professor Grace returns (yay!) … this time how to clean the shower screen!


‘Keep calm and put the kettle on’

A contribution from two University of Melbourne students: Hanna Savage and Yara Toenders


‘I should preface this video with an admission – I am not a chef …’

Kelsi (Sassy) Semeschuk first met folks at Dulwich Centre by happenstance – she was working in a cafe just down the road .. while studying a Masters of Counselling (including narrative therapy) longdistance from a Canadian University. She subsequently studied at Dulwich Centre and volunteered in two different ways. One was to catalogue the Michael White video archive. The other was to assist Peter Hollams (Cheryl’s brother) to make delicious meals for Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work students and faculty. Kelsi is now doing her PhD at the University of Melbourne in relation to Michael White’s video archive! Throughout these times her Pumpkin, Spinach and Fetta Frittata has made many lunchgoers very happy …   

At the beginning of this video, Kelsi riffs on a quote by Michael White from his classic 1991 paper ‘Deconstruction and therapy’ in which he wrote: 

I should preface this discussion of deconstruction with an admission – I am not an academic, but, for the want of a better word, a therapist. It is my view that not being situated in the academic world allows me certain liberties, including the freedom to break some rules …

White, M. (1991) Deconstruction and Therapy, Dulwich Centre Newsletter, 1991, 3: 21-40. 


And now for something completely different … with David Denborough 


A walk in Hong Kong 

Ada Kot in Hong Kong found this “Exoticising the domestic” project on website a few days ago …

… it is hilarious! I enjoyed it so much, and would like to share my life in Hong Kong with you during these days.  I don’t have many skills, but walking.  Therefore, I’ve walked more than two hours from my home to visit my friend today, instead of taking 1-hour bus. In this way, I can show you one of the cricket field in Hong Kong, to echo with DD’s bowling.  Also, you can see the original site of the Kai Tak International Airport in the heart of the city. 


Bin Isolation Outing extraordinaire

Grace of cleaning fame has an entire separate life … the joy of the double stories:


See this news story for more about Bin Isolation Outings


Making Candles with Amy Swindon

 From a locked down Melbourne, Amy offers this delightful creative candle-making video. Thanks Amy!  


Cheryl remains on the look out for demonstrations from other narrative practitioners of domestic skills that they would be happy to share with the field! If you have one to share … please write to dcp@dulwichcentre.com.au

Brazilian artist makes masks for people who miss showing their face  


The real concept of ‘Exoticising the domestic’

To exoticise the domestic is  a sentiment proposed by social scientist/philosopher Pierre Bourdieu that influenced the work of Michael White.

Here Michael White explains: 

Bourdieu proposes that one of the goals for those of us who wish to study our own familiar worlds is to ‘exoticise the domestic’. On the subject of this sentiment, he states:

The sociologist who chooses to study his (sic) own world in its nearest and most familiar aspects should not, as the ethnologist would, domesticate the exotic, but, if I many venture the expression, exoticise the domestic, through a break with his (sic) initial relation of intimacy with modes of life and thought which remain opaque to him (sic) because they are too familiar. In fact the movement towards the originary, and the ordinary, world should be the culmination of a movement toward alien and extraordinary worlds. (Bourdieu 1988, pp.xi-xii)

This notion of ‘exoticising the domestic’ has been of assistance to me in my efforts to characterise explorations of narrative practice. This seems entirely resonant with a form of therapeutic inquiry in which investigations of ‘the ordinary world’ culminate in investigations of ‘alien and extraordinary worlds’.

…  So much about modern rationality obscures, diminishes and marginalises diversity in modes of life and thought. As a consequence of this, people’s lives are rendered routine and, in a great many circumstances, sub-ordinary. The sentiment associated with ‘exoticising the domestic’ can provide an antidote to these effects of this modern rationality by encouraging therapeutic inquiry into what is unique in people’s lives. In the context of inquiry shaped by this sentiment, the territories of people’s lives that are routinely considered lacklustre and monotonous are rendered exotic. And in the context of inquiry shaped by this sentiment, therapeutic conversations that might otherwise reproduce the known and the familiar, become journeys to destinations that cannot be specified or predicted in advance of arrival.

This sentiment associated with ‘exoticising the domestic’ sponsors a form of therapeutic inquiry in which people suddenly find themselves interested in novel understandings of the events of their lives, curious about aspects of their lives that have been forsaken, fascinated with neglected territories of their identities, and, at times, awed by their own responses to the predicaments of their existence. For therapists, this sentiment fosters a consciousness of the life-shaping aspects of therapeutic inquiry, including a consciousness of the ways in which we, as therapists, are becoming other than who we were at the outset of our meetings with the people who consult us. This consciousness contributes significantly to the rich story development of our own lives and work, and can be a source of inspiration.

…. I hope that you will join me in working to further develop therapeutic practices that have the potential to ‘exoticise the domestic’, that will contribute to the identification of ‘extraordinary worlds’, and that will cultivate the resurrection of diversity in everyday life.

by Michael White
From the introduction to the book Narrative practice and exotic lives: Essays and interviews 


Bourdieu, P. 1988: Homo Academicus. California: Stanford University Press.

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