Miasmic ruptures and the fear of the permeable interior

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Conference Proceeding
Interior: A state of becoming, Book 1: Symposium Proceedings, 2012, pp. n.p. - ?
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Materials erode, sag, peel, fade and fray. These indications of decay are visual clues that speak of the passage of time as well as of the care expended on an item or space. The meaning assigned to such decay also changes across cultures and historical epochs. This paper explores one such form of decay, the colloquially named 'miasma hole', and its cultural neuroses during the 18th century, leading up to modernity. This paper presents the history of miasma holes in domestic interiors in terms of Althusserian overdetermination, where repressed anxieties return in the form of obscure symbols. Miasma holes are also explored as the physical manifestations of tim, and are suggestive of the continual transformation of the interior through wear. This paper offers an understanding of 18th century ventilation and urban planning concerns, as well as of the typical interior decoration and furnishing of particularly sensitive rooms, including bedrooms and nurseries, and the establishment and justification of now accepted social taboos, such as the intergenerational sharing of beds. This interpretation of the miasma hole offers a useful way of reading the movement of history through a single material manifestation, as well as adding to our understanding of the basis for modern conventions of hygiene.
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