In this narrative, the top-down nature of urban regeneration and the question of physical displacement take dominance, reproducing an idea of urban dispossession circumscribed to the moment of material loss of home.
dispossession is more than its physical manifestations through evictions and displacement. As a process, it is a localized disarticulation of wider social, cultural, legal and political relations
disowning, disavowal and disposabilit
As there is now a resurgent interest in municipal solutions to housing crises, both nationally and internationally,1 sharing a critical and cautious reflection on municipal dispossession appears all the more urgent.
In British English, the verb ‘to decant’ can be used to refer to ‘rehousing people while their homes are being rebuilt or refurbished’ (Collins English Dictionary); as such, it is commonly used in public policy to refer to the rehousing of council tenants (Crawford et al., 2014). In this usage, residents become an uncountable, faceless entity that can be poured, like a liquid, from one container to another. The term evokes a temporal, suspended dimension: neither evicted nor displaced, people are temporarily ‘decanted’ with the promise of being placed more permanently somewhere else. ‘Decanting’ entails a dehumanizing violence, but also a sort of poetic justice, as it indicates the movement of a collective subject from a collective place of dwelling such as a council estate.
In European countries where public housing was built and managed municipally, as in the UK, dispossession through regeneration programmes becomes a localized example of the dismantling of the wider political legitimacy of the public housing project
I draw on residents’ experiences to show that, rather than a presumed ‘right to property’, they repeatedly invoke a right to ‘propriety’: to be treated properly, to be acknowledged as proper political subjects
Despite protests from residents, in many cases ethnic minorities, deprived neighbourhoods started to be treated as ‘an abandoned movie set’. Not only was residents’ right to a peaceful home undermined, but their homes and living spaces were stigmatized and became emblematic of a specific cultural association with the genre of ‘vigilante action’ films, which offered ‘viewers the pleasurable fantasy of killing off the bad guys along with the degenerate city that bred them’
The use of British council estates as backdrops for imaginaries of urban and social dereliction have given rise to ‘sink estate spectacle’, which has, since the 1990s, ‘become a major trope in mainstream popular culture’
In London, imaginaries of urban decay have historically been mobilized to accompany attempts at remaking the metropolis; more recently, they have been used to promote ‘clean slate’ urban regeneration policies
As has been observed with similar processes elsewhere, the temporal extension of these processes serves the tactics of displacement in several ways: on the one hand, it gradually removes potential disagreement, while on the other it ‘exhaust[s] tenants and produce[s] the feeling that resistance is meaningless’
multiple tenures co-existed: residents might be leaseholders, social tenants, or even temporary licensees and private tenants
When it became clear, in 2007, that the promised ‘early housing sites’ for the Heygate residents would not be built, tenants began the lengthy process of seeking rehousing through a bidding process administered by the council via an online platform called Homesearch. Many tenants described the process as technically complicated and stressful, as they were asked to compete against each other over a small number of properties.
he commissioning in 2018 of ‘The Happiness Project’, which offered emotional counselling to residents still living on the estate
pathologizing those who are victimized and for assuming that ‘powerlessness is synonymous with mental illness’
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