Home unhoused: (im)mobile belongings, eviction and attachment to place

Authors: Ifigeneia Dimitrakou*, University of Zurich, Department of Geography, Hanna Hilbrandt*, University of Zurich, Department of Geography
Topics: Legal Geography
Keywords: eviction, home, materiality, belonging
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 37
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In 2017, the City of Dortmund (Germany) ‘evacuated’ the mass rental housing complex Hannibal II in the wake of a decades-long circuit of speculative (dis)investment, debt, and neglect and the catastrophic Grenfell Tower fire in London earlier in this year. As this eviction was ordered at short notice despite longstanding concerns over the violations of fire safety codes, 753 tenants were not only expulsed from their homes, but also forced to leave their personal belongings behind. This paper focuses on the struggles and conflicts ensuing this emergency ‘evacuation’ to reflect on how the relationship of personal property and social belonging are practiced legally, through materiality, and in space.
Our analysis draws on interviews with Hannibal’s former tenants and legal proceedings in the context of claims over the belongings they were forced to leave behind to discuss the entanglement of law, ‘stuff’, and place from two perspectives: First, considering how personal possessions and the conflicts involved in their legal governance become elements of ‘home (un)making’ (Baxter & Brickell 2014) and tenants’ sense of belonging; second, regarding the ways in which claims over ‘stuff’ become instrumental to tenants’ efforts to stay in place while being forcibly and legally displaced. By challenging the law’s assumption that tenants’ material possessions are mobile (rather than attached to place), our contribution suggests that considering processes of eviction through their socio-material dimensions furthers our understanding of the ways in which legal governance contributes to processes of and resistance to tenants’ precarization.

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