Social Intersections 03 (simple definition)

So what is the everyday? Leaving aside the long tradition of theoretical inquiry into the nature of the everyday, there would seem to be a need for some simple effort at definition, whilst also, of course, acknowledging the notion’s resistance to definition.

The everyday is anything that you wouldn’t be bothered photographing, that you wouldn’t even think to point a camera at, or to describe in a story to a friend. You might instead refer to it negatively, as in saying that “I have done nothing all morning.” In other words, nothing worth mentioning, just the usual. Just that which can be assumed, that which we have in common.

The everyday does not take shape as a significant event. It is not the assassination of a president or revolutionary struggle in the streets of Cairo. It is not anything that warrants a place on an historical timeline. Of course, within the texture of historical events, the everyday can also appear – as the banal, as dead time, as the intrusion, weight or surprise of normalacy.

The everyday is also not a family birthday party. It is not a trip to Europe. It is not your first day at school. It is the ordinary time between, or at times within, those special events. It is the time where you spend most of your time. It is the background time that enables special events to gain their distinctive identity.

In geological terms, the everyday can be likened to sedimentation and to weathering. It is not the cataclysmic event – the volcano or the earthquake – but instead the slow, imperceptible laying down or wearing away of deposits.

The everyday affects the structure of cities, of homes, of bodies, but never takes the form of a visionary plan or a blueprint. The everyday is linked to micro-level decisions (what Certeau calls “tactics”). It has emergent properties, but these are never directly highlighted or reflected upon. When emergence takes shape as an event, it is always beyond the contours of the everyday.

The everyday appears in league with the habitual, but the repetition this entails, however apparently secure and seamless, is always imperfect, always subject to the exigencies of particular moments of performance. The everyday, despite its predictable character, is never a space of absolute determination. It undoes the absolute less by explicitly resisting it than by setting it in place, setting it in motion.

The everyday is the unremarkable dimension of life, yet it is life precisely, and in this sense remarkable – even if there is no adequate way of making this apparent, even if the everyday is bound to a contract with blindness.

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