The Contemporary Governance and Colonial Genealogy of Evictions

Authors: Daniela Aiello*, University of Georgia
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: Eviction, dispossession, race, colonialism, displacement, housing, legal geographies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 8:40 AM / 9:55 AM
Room: Governors Square 14, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


A great deal of increasing attention has been paid in recent years to the problem of evictions. Across academia and grassroots organizing realms, eviction 'labs' and 'observatories' are being formed to monitor and map them, researchers publish papers highlighting the rise of the corporate landlord via the growing automated and serialized processes by which tenants are displaced. While the consensus is that evictions are on the rise, contemporary social scientific renderings of evictions (and socio-spatial displacement generally) have a strong tendency to fetishize them as a particular act, as a problem that may be easily solved with policy, or worse, as unprecedented. Instead, this paper argues that we cannot understand evictions without examining the specific historical and ongoing structures of power via coloniality, race and property that shapes their emergence and consolidation over time. I trace practices of land surveying and conveyance through colonial crown grants, the socio-legal codification of the landlord/tenant relationship, the development of the 'lease' and other paper technologies of record keeping, through to the practices of adjudication and spectacle that attend eviction -- all of which are central elements of racialized dispossession and its contemporary after-life. Not only are today's practices of eviction shown to be so complex that it is clear we have seriously under represented the phenomenon of displacement in the social sciences, but their genealogy as an apparatus of colonial power reveals they are foundational to our society - even as they are accelerating within advanced stages of capitalist urbanization.

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