Properties of liberal-democratic citizenship: Constructing the houseless as secondary citizens

Authors: Stephen Przybylinski*, Syracuse University
Topics: Political Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Property, citizenship, democracy, rights, houselessness
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Calvert Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Property ownership has been essential to characterizing citizenship historically within liberal-democracies. Although ownership of property is no longer required (per the U.S. constitution) to enjoy the benefits of liberal citizenship, property—a system of socio-legal, political, and economic relations—remains a critical means of demarcating citizenship in subtle, yet significant ways. Arguably those who are most impacted by property relations today are individuals living without access to or use of property—the houseless. Houselessness is very much an absence of rights to use or access certain spaces. Being denied rights to access space not only eradicates the ability of individuals to survive, such property exclusions become further problematic when they are intimately associated with claims to legitimate political participation and representation within liberal-democratic practices. Lacking genuine political representation, houseless individuals are often outright excluded from the benefits of, or realize severely diminished rights of, liberal citizenship, that which housed individuals de facto enjoy. The work of property relations for the houseless, then, often constitutes houseless individuals as political subjects without rights to citizenship by way of being propertyless. This paper, therefore, examines the active relationship between property and citizenship for houseless individuals. I argue not that liberal property systems deny homeless individuals of their citizenship status. Instead, I suggest property systems implicate houseless individuals ambiguously within liberal tenets of propertied-citizenship, one whereby houseless individuals’ rights to access property is only ever conditionally realized.

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