We are four-dimensional beings. We live in the three spatial dimensions, and move through time. This is a basic fact about our existence, on the level of fundamental physics.

But our relationship to place is complex.

We have the word “home”. For most people this means one building or apartment in which they sleep every night, for a period of years. After some time they may change where their home is. The legal system reifies this sense of the word: it insists that people have a “primary address”1. This insistence is implicit – there’s no single law that says “you must have a primary residence”, nor is there a specific task force that enforces it.

The legal sense of home seems woven deeply into a variety of regulations, likely defined differently everywhere.

In the US, a residence matters because it determines which state has jurisdiction over you, for taxpaying among other considerations. Or for registering a vehicle. This is done on a state level, and requires you to have proof of residence in that state.

On an international level, of course, we have citizenship. But when you are in-between, when you are a citizen of one country living in another, maybe working with a company in a third, trying to arrange payments across these lines, dealing with bureaucratic and software systems that assume a particular view of the world, you are on your own.

I’d like to read more about this. This paper seems like a good starting place, but other suggestions accepted.

This is also a clear example of James C. Scott’s legibility argument. The state wants your relationship to place to be legible, so it forces you to live in a certain way.

I’ve written about this before, and this beautiful essay explores the same topic.

Update 2020/10/01: Some links to look at:

  • https://journals.openedition.org/histoiremesure/3942?lang=en
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0305748807000709?via%3Dihub
  1. I’m talking here about the USA, because that’s what I’m most familiar with, but I believe this applies more broadly.