A colonial genealogy of eviction: racialized dispossession in Atlanta and Vancouver

Authors: Daniela Aiello*, Queen's University
Topics: Urban Geography, Legal Geography
Keywords: Urban Geography, race, colonialism, housing, eviction, racial capitalism, settler colonialism, Atlanta, US South, Vancouver
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines land relations in two settler colonial cities: Atlanta and Vancouver, to provide a genealogical account of modern-day evictions through the lens of racialized capitalist dispossession. Fetishized by modern social science as a particular act, or as a contemporary phenomenon of advanced capitalism, I argue that instead evictions are foundational to our society. As an analytic framework to outline eviction’s emergence, I identify four mechanisms through which their power relations unfold: authoritative (the law), technological (textuality), infrastructural (spaces of adjudication), and spectacular (public notice). I explore the textual technologies of survey and land theft, to elucidate their foundational status as racial and dispossessive logics (extinguishment, enslavement, confinement, banishment) underlying today’s landlord-tenant relationships. I trace the plat map, the land grant and the lease, as key texts that delimit contractual relations that prefigure and enact eviction. As authorizing documents, they travel tenants through forms of subjection, into states of perpetual eviction, where rent and tenancy are instituted not only for accumulation, but as modes of deterritorializing control that are explicitly colonial and racial in their function and effects. Evictions are less an act or phenomena to be mapped or counted, but a symptom of dispossession – a means to express property’s end. Ultimately, a rendering of evictions as racialized capitalist dispossession has key implications for theorizing the urban, as it better positions housing scholars to discern what is 'new' and what is not new about evictions in our current moment.

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