Home Practice

Home Practice
by Emma Meehan


The relationship between nationalism and women’s bodies can be seen in the Irish constitution of 1937, where the role of women in Irish society included child-bearing and home-making. The constitution states that ‘the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved’ (Article 4.1, 2.1 and 2.2, Irish Constitution/ Bunreacht na hEireann, 1937 with amendments up to 2004).

My great grandmother’s husband died so she ran several home-based businesses including the making and selling of lace to America. My grandmother had a shop at the front of the house, and later worked in the dance hall that my grandfather ran. By my mother’s account, she was very outgoing, sociable and also loved cooking and hosting other people.

The marriage bar in Ireland, which meant that women in civil service had to resign from their job on marrying, was lifted in 1977. In 1979, a bill was passed so that contraception, which had previously been banned, could be obtained on prescription, albeit under regulated conditions. These initiatives reflected the changing attitude of the state towards the role of women in Irish society, and the increasing separation of Church and State in the conceptualisation of Irish identities.

By the time my mother married, it was not unusual for women to work outside the home, but they were also expected to be the primary homemakers and caregivers at the same time. Unlike my great grandmother, grandmother and mother, I am not married nor do I have children.

What connections are there in my female familial and creative lineage across time?

What will I have left to pass on and to whom?

I wonder if it is through a creative lineage that I am connected to the women in my family? Hosting, sharing food, and creating social occasions for exchange have become interests in my work, and these were givens to my female predecessors.

In my creative lineage, Irish choreographer Joan Davis teaches and performs in her home place, sharing food, performance, artwork, and cultivated gardens to create community events. Since moving to the UK three years ago, movement artist Sandra Reeve has informed my practice – she also teaches, performs and hosts creative events in her home place, where the sharing of food, conversation and creativity become central to her open garden days.

I am now calling this familial and creative lineage ‘home practice’.

I have taken to weaving home life with creative practice, moving and writing in my bedroom, sitting room, and kitchen. The sociality of exchanging food and conversation has formed part of my hosting of events, exhibits, performance showings, and open dialogues as alternative formats for sharing practice and research.

In this hamper, you will find my great grandmother’s lace, a poem by my mother, home-mde Irish tea brack, and some writing from my movement practice.
Feel free to look, touch, taste, smell, read aloud…

Emma Meehan is a Research Fellow at Coventry University’s Centre for Dance Research. She received her BA and PhD from the Drama Department, Trinity College, Dublin. She has studied Authentic Movement with Joan Davis, and Amerta-informed approaches with Sandra Reeve. Performance projects include Speak on movement and language, Wellness Sensorium on hospital experience, and Live Archive about Irish contemporary dance archives. Interests include reflective writing emerging from movement, site-based dance and practice as research. She is associate editor for Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices, and co-convenor of the Performance as Research Working Group at the International Federation for Theatre Research.