Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Earth & Environmental Sciences


Cindi Katz

Subject Categories

American Studies | Geography


assemblage theory; ethnography; housing; phenomenology; urban geography


This research examines the experiences novice homebuyers in New York City and Oakland, CA have during the home search and decision-making processes. Using a mixed-method approach that combines ethnography with critical discourse analysis and non-representational theory, this work examines the ideology of homeownership as well as the tensions that stem from its emotional affordances. It addresses a lacuna in the housing literature regarding the turbulent everyday emotional tensions that buyers confront as they navigate the highly professionalized real estate industry. Homeownership is lauded for being a relatively low-risk tool for highly leveraged investment; however, using data drawn from a series of interviews conducted with participants over months and years, I demonstrate that first-time prospective homebuyers' struggles to understand their feelings about buying often frustrates their abilities to make confident and clear housing decisions. Each chapter reflects on a different facet of the homebuying process, and taken as a whole the dissertation provides a kaleidoscopic view of what I call the homebuyer assemblage. In light of the recent turbulence in the national housing market, I argue that neglecting to attend to the intersection of financial logic, emotion, and social relations for prospective homebuyers leads to oversights in areas where housing studies must be developed.