Rethinking vacancy: Governing possibility in the ruins of post-crash Dublin

Authors: Cian O'Callaghan*, Trinity College Dublin
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: Urban vacancy; Entrepreneurial urbanism; Property; Housing; Temporary use; Governmentality; Dublin
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Napoleon B1, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The prevalence of unfinished developments, underutilised land, and ‘new ruins’ in recent years has made “vacant space”, in various manifestations, a more visible and politicised feature of post-crisis urbanisation. The scale and severity of property bubbles in various countries, coupled in some instances with foreclosure crises, has left vast landscapes of stalled, unfinished or vacant developments and stagnant property markets, and vacancy has become a central feature of national debates about ‘the crisis’. But given their radical openness and transgressive potential, vacant spaces and modern ruins have also become sites of potentiality in post-crisis cities, as urban inhabitants reclaim buildings and spaces left ruined by austerity. However, as urban property markets return through policies that open up cities to new rounds of financialised investment these alternative uses may once again be reclaimed by market actors. In this way, vacancy has taken on new meanings and ‘possibilities’ in the post-crisis city. This paper will draw on a case study of Dublin, Ireland, a city that has within a very short period experienced a boom, a bust that left vast tracts of vacancy, and partial recovery that has brought with it a new housing crisis. Focusing its analysis on the diverse set of actors who have been engaged in reusing vacant spaces following Dublin’s property crash, the paper will argue that the ‘possibilities’ of vacancy constitute an important site of governmentality wherein alternative urban futures are contested and fought over and new political subjectivities are formed.

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