Hoarding as Housing Precarity: Investigating the Historical Problematization of Hoarding as Mental Illness

Authors: Marina Chavez*, Simon Fraser University
Topics: Legal Geography
Keywords: Keywords: precarity, property theory, geography, Genealogy, Hoarding disorder
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


Hoarding disorder is often defined as an irrational attachment to, and inability to discard, belongings. Research on hoarding frames the behavior as exclusively a mental disorder. However, the history of the concept of hoarding and its origins as a mental disorder is little known. This paper seeks to open the “black box” of hoarding by examining media and documents related to the historical framings of hoarding as it moves from a condition associated with greed and gluttony to a mental illness. This research will use a genealogical methodology to investigate the pathology of hoarding by considering the institutional, cultural, and legal processes that problematize a set of actions and people. (Castel 1994, Bacchi 2011). The goal is to examine the social pathologization and diagnosis of hoarding as a disorder that furthers precarity, especially for those with more tenuous control over landed property. By probing through a series of events, keywords, policy documents, and debates regarding tenants and their possessions, this paper seeks to understand how hoarding has become a problem that escalates precarity, often requiring intervention by the state.

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