A Review of the Meaning of Home in Multi-Ethnic Settings


  • Erna Nuralia Zharani School of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Science, University of Leeds, United Kingdom https://orcid.org/0009-0000-3769-9749
  • Prof. Gehan Selim School of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Science, University of Leeds, United Kingdom https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6061-5953




Meaning of Home, Multi-Ethnic, Home Practice, Home Making, Physical Home


This paper explores the meaning of home from multiple regions and the factors that influence the definition of home from multi-ethnic perspectives. A hypothesis derived that each ethnicity of a household practises cultural values and that reconfiguring physical spaces provides greater knowledge of their definition of home. This study employed a systematic review to gather the most relevant papers in the existing literature from the year 2000 to 2023, to address the gaps in knowledge in conceptualising the meaning of home in multi-ethnic settings. The findings respond to the hypothesis of this paper, that each household practises privacy and social boundaries in line with their belief systems and that reconfiguring physical space is part of homemaking tactics. This study outcome contributes to the development of a new conceptual framework that clarifies a comprehensive cause-effect relationship between key variables, ethnicity as the social aspect, built space as the physical aspect and practice as the personal or psychological aspect, resulting in a greater understanding of the meaning of home in multi-ethnic settings from three scenarios; the home as socio-spatial, psycho-spatial and emotive space entity.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Erna Nuralia Zharani, School of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Science, University of Leeds, United Kingdom

Erna Zharani is a PhD researcher in the Architecture and Urbanism Research Group at the University of Leeds. In 2014, she received her Bachelor's Degree in Architecture and Master's Degree in Architecture from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in 2019 for her research on "Facade Design of Public Buildings Towards the Development of National Architectural Identity".

Erna has over six years of experience in property and hotel development companies in Malaysia. Her previous experience includes as a part-time lecturer for Diploma Architecture at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia before beginning her full-time PhD studies in Leeds. She has been a guest panellist several times for student architectural design reviews and project assessments at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, the University Malaya and UCSI University.

Prof. Gehan Selim, School of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Science, University of Leeds, United Kingdom

Professor Gehan Selim is the Hoffman Wood Chair in Architecture at the University of Leeds. She is the Deputy Director at Leeds Social Sciences Institute and was Fellow of The Senator George Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice (2017/18).  She is leading the Architecture and Urbanism Research Group at the University of Leeds with her research covering interdisciplinary methods bridging between Architecture, Memory and Digital Heritage.

Professor Selim has developed a sustained record of over 70 high-quality publications cited by scholars in Architecture and other fields. She led and coordinated over 20 research projects, leading multi-international teams in the global south. Her research received multiple national/international awards such as The Newton Fund Prize for Outstanding Impact (2020); Best Practice Project Award by the International Council of Museums, ICOM (2017); and the Women of Achievements Awards (2021) in recognition of excellence and outstanding performance in interdisciplinary research. She is the author of ‘Unfinished Places’ (Routledge, 2017) and ‘Architecture, Space and Memory of Resurrection in Northern Ireland’ (Routledge, 2019).


Abdelmonem, M. G. (2012). Responsive homes of old Cairo: Learning from the past, feeding in the future. Hospitality and Society, 2(3), 251–271. https://doi.org/10.1386/hosp.2.3.251_1

Abdelmonem, M. G., & Selim, G. (2012). Architecture, memory and historical continuity in Old Cairo. Journal of Architecture, 17(2), 163–189. https://doi.org/10.1080/13602365.2012.678634

Abdullah, W. A. M. W., Roslan, N. H., Ismail, S. A., Mansoor, M., & Elyssa, N. (2022). Multi-ethnic harmony in diversity country with functionalism theory in Malaysia. Baltic Journal of Law and Politics: A Journal of Vytautas Magnus University, 15(3), 493–511. https://doi.org/10.2478/bjlp-2022-002037

Abed, A., Obeidat, B., & Gharaibeh, I. (2022). The impact of socio-cultural factors on the transformation of house layout: a case of public housing - Zebdeh-Farkouh, in Jordan. Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering, 00(00), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/13467581.2022.2074021

Abu-Ghazzeh, T. M. (2000). Environmental messages in multiple-family housing: Territory and personalization. Landscape Research, 25(1), 97–115. https://doi.org/10.1080/014263900113190

Abu Bakar, A., Malek, N. A., Mohit, M. A., Othman, R., Nur, A., & Sanusi, Z. (2016). Housing Space Quality towards Quality Of Life: A Case Study of Double Storey Terrace Houses. MATEC Web of Conferences 66, IBCC, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1051/matecconf/20166600083

Al-Mohannadi, A., Major, M. D., Furlan, R., Al-Matwi, R. S., & Isaifan, R. J. (2023). Investigation of Spatial and Cultural Features in Contemporary Qatari Housing. Urban Science, 7(2), 60. https://doi.org/10.3390/urbansci7020060

Al-Tarazi, D. (2021). “What makes a house a home?”: A theoretical model for the architectural design of homes based on human psychological needs to support and promote users’ psychological well-being (Issue February) [University of the West of England]. https://uwe-repository.worktribe.com/output/6112388

Al-Thahab, A. A. L. (2016). Towards Sustainable Architecture And Urban Form : Socio-Cultural Aspects of Sustainable Application of the Practice of Home and the Mahalla"s Everyday Life in Iraq [University of Wolverhampton]. http://hdl.handle.net/2436/621928

Aromataris, E., & Pearson, A. (2014). The systematic review: An overview. American Journal of Nursing, 114(3), 53–58. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.NAJ.0000444496.24228.2c

Aziz, A. A., & Ahmad, A. S. (2012). Home Making in Low-Cost Housing Area. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 49, 268–281. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.07.025

Boccagni, P., & Kusenbach, M. (2020). For a comparative sociology of home: Relationships, cultures, structures. Current Sociology, 68(5), 595–606. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011392120927776

Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of A Theory of Practice (R. Nice, Trans.). In E. Gellner, J. Goody, S. Gudeman, M. Herzfeld, & J. Parry (Eds.), Cambridge Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511812507

Case, D. (1996). Contributions Of Journeys Away To The Definition Of Home: An Empirical Study Of A Dialectical Process. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 16, 1–15. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1006/jevp.1996.0001

Certeau, M. de. (1984). “Making do”: Uses and Tactics (S. Rendell, Trans.). In The Practice of Everyday Life (pp. 1–254). University of California Press. https://monoskop.org/images/2/2a/De_Certeau_Michel_The_Practice_of_Everyday_Life.pdf

Crowe, M., Inder, M., & Porter, R. (2015). Conducting qualitative research in mental health: Thematic and content analyses. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 49(7), 616–623. https://doi.org/10.1177/0004867415582053

Cuerdo-Vilches, T., Navas-Martín, M. Á., & Oteiza, I. (2020). A mixed approach on resilience of spanish dwellings and households during covid-19 lockdown. Sustainability (Switzerland), 12(23), 1–24. https://doi.org/10.3390/su122310198

Easthope, H. (2004). A place called home. Housing, Theory and Society, 21(3), 128–138. https://doi.org/10.1080/14036090410021360

Graham, L. T., Gosling, S. D., & Travis, C. K. (2015). The Psychology of Home Environments: A Call for Research on Residential Space. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(3), 346–356. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691615576761

Hamid, Z. A., Hung, F. C., & Beng, G. H. (2017). Affordable and Quality Housing Through Mechanization, Modernization and Mass Customisation. Modernisation, Mechanisation and Industrialisation of Concrete Structures, February, 452–474. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118876503.ch11

Hamzah, H., & Adnan, N. (2016). The Meaning of Home and Its Implications on Alternative Tenures: A Malaysian Perspective. Housing, Theory and Society, 33(3), 305–323. https://doi.org/10.1080/14036096.2016.1143025

Hand, M., Shove, E., & Southerton, D. (2007). Home extensions in the United Kingdom: Space, time, and practice. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 25(4), 668–681. https://doi.org/10.1068/d413t

Handel, A. (2019). What’s in a home? Toward a critical theory of housing/dwelling. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 37(6), 1045–1062. https://doi.org/10.1177/2399654418819104

Heidegger, M. (2001). Building Dwelling Thinking (A.Hofstadter, Trans.). In Poetry, Language, Thought (Vol. 46, Issue 4, p. 670). Harper & Row . (Original work published in 1971). https://doi.org/10.2307/40126613

Hu, X. (2008). Boundaries and openings: Spatial strategies in the Chinese dwelling. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, 23(4), 353–366. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10901-008-9123-z

Im, L. P., & Fah, C. Y. (2018). Preference of residential typologies of urban Malaysians. Planning Malaysia, 16(3), 171–181. https://doi.org/10.21837/pmjournal.v16.i7.509

Ju, S. R., Zaki, S. A., & Choi, Y. K. (2011). Contextual modernization; New town planning in Petaling Jaya, of Malaysia. Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering, 10(1), 93–100. https://doi.org/10.3130/jaabe.10.93

Kottmann, N. (2022). Living (alone) together in metropolitan Japan: shifting boundaries of dwelling, relating, and belonging. Gender, Place and Culture, 29(8), 1162–1182. https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2021.1973968

Lah, N. A. A., Wahab, M. H. A., Koh, D., & Saruwono, M. (2015). Metaphysical Approach for Design Functionality in Malay-Islamic Architecture. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 202, 273–284. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.08.231

Lefebvre, H. (1991). The production of space (D. Nicholson Smith, Trans.). In The production of space. Blackwell. https://mars1980.github.io/Space/resources/Lefebvre-Production-of-Space-excerpts-1.pdf

Lordoğlu, C. (2022). Multiple homes, emotions, selves: home narratives of women who abandoned unhappy homes in Istanbul. Gender, Place and Culture, 30(9), 1261–1280. https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2022.2118241

Mackay, M., & Perkins, H. C. (2017). The globalising world of DIY house improvement: interpreting a cultural and commercial phenomenon. Housing Studies, 32(6), 758–777. https://doi.org/10.1080/02673037.2016.1234031

Mallett, S. (2004). Understanding home: A critical review of the literature. Sociological Review, 52(1), 62–89. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954x.2004.00442.x

Masran, S. A. (2019). Privacy Factors of the House Frontages In Malaysian Terrace Houses (Issue October) [University Teknologi Malaysia]. http://eprints.utm.my/id/eprint/98295/1/SitiAisyahMasranMFABU2019.pdf

Methley, A. M., Campbell, S., Chew-Graham, C., McNally, R., & Cheraghi-Sohi, S. (2014). PICO, PICOS and SPIDER: A comparison study of specificity and sensitivity in three search tools for qualitative systematic reviews. BMC Health Services Research, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-014-0579-0

Mohamad, R. (1992). Unity in Diversity: An Exploration of the Supports Concept as a Design Approach to Housing in Multi-Ethnic Malaysia [Massachusetts Institute of Technology]. http://hdl.handle.net/1721.1/68740

Mohan, J., & Twigg, L. (2007). Sense of place, quality of life and local socioeconomic context: Evidence from the Survey of English Housing, 2002/03. Urban Studies, 44(10), 2029–2045. https://doi.org/10.1080/00420980701471885

Morrison, C. A. (2013). Homemaking in New Zealand: thinking through the mutually constitutive relationship between domestic material objects, heterosexuality and home. Gender, Place and Culture, 20(4), 413–431. https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2012.694358

Muhammad Koderi, Z., Rachmawati, M., & Faqih, M. (2020). The Meaning of Home in Perception of Elderly. Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, 436. https://doi.org/10.2991/assehr.k.200529.017

Musa, Z. M., Farid, M., Abdullah, R., Usman, A. H., & Iskandar, A. (2021). Privacy in Islam as a Guide to Housing Development. IJIK, 11(2), 67–77. https://doi.org/10.15575/ijik.v11i2.11904

Okeyinka, Y., & Amole, B. (2012). The meaning of home in Yoruba culture. Ethiopian Journal of Environmental Studies and Management, 5(4), 489–496. https://doi.org/10.4314/ejesm.v5i4.s8

Omar, E. O., Endut, E., & Saruwono, M. (2016). Adapting by Altering: Spatial modifications of terraced houses in the Klang Valley area. Asian Journal of Environment-Behaviour Studies, 2(2), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.21834/aje-bs.v2i2.173

Othman, Z. (2014). University Life and Australian Homes: Three Case Studies of International Muslim Students in Brisbane. Journal of Islamic Architecture, 3(2), 69. https://doi.org/10.18860/jia.v3i2.2527

Özçetin, P. S., & Rottmann, S. B. (2022). (Lived) Spaces of Belonging, Culture, and Gender: Spatial Practices of Home for Syrian Women in Istanbul. Space and Culture, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1177/12063312221089213

Rahim, Z. A., & Hashim, A. H. (2012). Adapting to Terrace Housing Living in Malaysia. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 36, 147–157. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.03.017

Rasdi, M. T. M. (2007). Housing Crisis : Back to Humanistic Agenda (M. Hamzah (ed.); First). University Technology of Malaysia. https://penerbit.utm.my/booksonline/housing-crisis-back-to-a-humanistic-agenda/

Razali, N. H. M., & Talib, A. (2013). The Concept of Privacy and the Malay Dwelling Interior Space Planning. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 101, 404–414. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.07.214

Rioux, L., Scrima, F., & Werner, C. M. (2017). Space appropriation and place attachment: University students create places. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 50, 60–68. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2017.02.003

Rosbrook, B., & Schweitzer, R. D. (2010). The meaning of home for Karen and Chin refugees from Burma: An interpretative phenomenological approach. European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling, 12(2), 159–172. https://doi.org/10.1080/13642537.2010.488876

Rowles, G. D. (1983). Place And Personal Identity In Old Age: Observations From Appalachia. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 3, 299–313. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0272-4944(83)80033-4

Samanani, F., & Lenhard, J. (2019). House and Home. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology, 1–18. http://doi.org/10.29164/19home

Samsudin, N. A., & Idid, S. Z. A. (2016). Influences of Housing Settings And Designs In FulFilling The Malay Residents’ Social Cultures. Journal of the Malaysian Institute of Planners SPECIAL ISSUE IV, IV, 109–120. https://doi.org/10.21837/pm.v14i4.152

Sixsmith, J. (1986). The Meaning Of Home : An Exploratory Study Of Environmental Experience. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 6, 281–298. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0272-4944(86)80002-0

Soligbo, A. D. (2020). Home Making and Sense of Community (Issue November) [Macquarie University]. https://figshare.mq.edu.au/articles/thesis/Home_making_and_sense_of_community_among_migrants_in_Sydney_apartments/21280830/1

Suryadi, A. S., Mohidin, H. H. B., Ressang, A. M., Aini, A. M., Mahdzar, S. S. S., & Jusan, M. M. (2022). Integrated Space in Low-Income Housing in Kuala Lumpur. Lecture Notes in Civil Engineering, 201, 425–432. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-6932-3_37

Ureta, S. (2007). Domesticating Homes: Material Transformation and Decoration among Low-Income Families in Santiago, Chile. Home Cultures, 4(3), 311–336. https://doi.org/10.2752/174063107x247341

Vale, L. J. (1999). Mediated monuments and national identity. Journal of Architecture, 4(4), 391–408. https://doi.org/10.1080/136023699373774

Watkins, C. (2005). Representations of Space, Spatial Practices and Spaces of Representation: An Application of Lefebvre’s Spatial Triad. Culture and Organization, 11(3), 209–220. https://doi.org/10.1080/14759550500203318

Werner, C. M. (1987). Home Interiors: A Time and Place for Interpersonal Relationships. Environment and Behavior, 19(2), 169–179. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916587192005

Werner, C. M., Altman, I., & Brown, B. B. (1992). A Transactional Approach to Interpersonal Relations: Physical Environment, Social Context and Temporal Qualities. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 9(2), 297–323. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407592092008

Woodward, I. (2003). Divergent Narratives in the Imagining of the Home amongst Middle-Class Consumers: Aesthetics, Comfort and the Symbolic Boundaries of Self and Home. Journal of Sociology, 39(4), 391–412. https://doi.org/10.1177/0004869003394005

Zohri, F. M. (2010). The Malay Women and Terrace Housing in Malaysia SARC 591. Victoria University of Wellington. http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/handle/10063/1598




How to Cite

Zharani, E. N., & Selim, G. (2023). A Review of the Meaning of Home in Multi-Ethnic Settings. Journal of Contemporary Urban Affairs, 7(1), 103–121. https://doi.org/10.25034/ijcua.2023.v7n1-8

Similar Articles

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.