ethics of space
285 pg pdf by Steph Grohmanm (2020) – the ethics of space – homelessness and squatting in urban england [https://haubooks.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/The-Ethics-of-Space_Web.pdf]
intro’d to book via scott thompson (and intro’d to scott via museum of care meetings) here:
@girlziplocked The Ethics of Space: Homelessness and Squatting in Urban England by Steph Grohmann
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/scottsgonetopot/status/1418103556578676739
she had asked ‘What’s the best book you’ve read so far during this forever pandemic?’
then from someone reading book via scott’s recommend:
For homeless people squatting becomes an “ethical practice intended to counteract the traumatic loss of full moral status, or ‘social death,’ which is so pronouncedly evident in the condition of homelessness.”
Beginning of this book is powerful. Holy cow https://t.co/C1kDBF9JG9
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/nathandavishunt/status/1418260421778321412
notes/quotes from book (first page number is pdf – 2nd is book):
for all who are out of place
listed in acknowledgements: roy bhaskar
preface by nicholas de genova
Based on fieldwork with squatters and other homeless people, primarily in Bristol, during which Grohmann was
herself living as a squatter, the book examines how people who are not securely housed, and are therefore “home”-less, are also socially and politically produced as being always “out of place.”
Grohmann’s incisive social critique ..mobilizes the ethnographic insights of her research as a platform for exploring the social dynamics of empathy, recognition, and ethics.
In this context of social marginalization and precarious housing, Grohmann discerns how squatters’ practices of appropriating space produce their own senses of “home” and “safe space,” and thereby collaborate in constructing moral subjectivities. The book demonstrates that squatting is not reducible to material deprivation or political disobedience but must also be understood as an ethical practice intended to counteract the traumatic loss of full moral status, or “social death,” which is so pronouncedly evident in the condition of homelessness. For homeless people, Grohmann shows, experiences of spatial and social displacement enact specific territorial forms of unequal power and prestige. Consequently, conflicts over legitimate access to, and control of, the physical environment become decisive sites in which to understand and transform the cognitive construction and social production of embodied moral subjectivities in space.
social death like spiritual violence.. structural violence.. et al
By purposefully and defiantly asserting their right to occupy vacant houses and other buildings, the squatters whom we meet in this book not only challenge the sanctity of private property or neoliberal housing policy but also remake themselves and one another as “spatial selves,” as embodied ethical subjects. In other words, what is at stake in their struggles to create practical solutions to the permanent “crisis” of affordable housing and the consequent scourge of homelessness is a more elemental question of ethics, as they also seek to redress the moral dilemma of how we live and relate to one another within the dominant regime of private property and social life under capitalism.
Through their struggles for housing, squatters initiate a more fundamental struggle to inhabit and take hold of social space, and thus to make modest but no less daring efforts to remake the world through very localized but determined measures to change their immediate, everyday lived realities.
In doing so, they challenge the larger social and political order of neoliberal capitalism, and in working to transform life, they also transform themselves and their relations with the wider society, and engage in new and creative experiments with how we might begin to reorganize all of our collective social life.
mike weatherly: ‘It is true that some of those who are homeless have squatted but this does not make them squatters. A typical squatter is middle-class, web-savvy, legally minded, university-educated and, most importantly, society-hating. They are very often extremely intimidating and violent. They are political extremists whose vision for society is a dysfunctional medieval wasteland without property rights, where an Englishman’s home is no longer his castle.‘
“Weatherley’s law,” as Section 144 came to be known, coincided with an intensification of England’s perpetual housing crisis in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, and the following austerity cuts, job losses, and welfare reform. The term “housing crisis” should be taken with a grain of salt—after all, “the idea of crisis implies that inadequate or unaffordable housing is abnormal, a temporary departure from a well-functioning standard. But for working-class and poor communities, housing crisis is the norm”. This certainly seems plausible when considering that the following words—which apart from the precise numbers could be taken straight from one of the numerous news articles about the current “housing crisis”—were actually written in 1979: ‘Most large British cities suffer a housing shortage but London is measurably worse. 35% of the city’s households live at a density of more than 1.5/room, compared with 16.1 % elsewhere in Britain. Only 4% of the country’s households have to share their home; the figure in the capital is 20%. Many of the more than 100.000 empty government-owned houses in London remain unoccupied for 5-10 yrs, yet there are 190,000 homeless families on housing council waiting lists. Another 51,000 privately held properties are unoccupied, 1/5 of which have been vacant for at least 2 yrs. The homeless reside in “temporary” government shelters or with relatives or friends under stressful, often intolerable, conditions.’
Post-2008, the situation was aggravated, however, by a soaring number of repossessions, as well as house-price inflation that pushed property ownership out of reach for large parts of the population and increased the proportion of privately rented homes by over two-thirds. At the same time, rents in the private sector increased far ahead of inflation, especially in London, while incomes stagnated and housing-related benefits were cut. Private renting in Britain is insecure at the best of times—unlike in Continental Europe, British law contains few protections for tenants, and evictions often happen for no other reason than that a tenancy has not been renewed because a landlord has an eye on charging higher rent to somebody else. Along with a general fall in income, these factors led to a 36 percent increase in people accepted as homeless by government agencies between 2009 and 2015. It is important to note that this figure only concerns those who were recognized by the government as eligible for support—if the number of unsuccessful applications is included, the figure would
be about twice as high. Additionally, a large number of homeless people do not present to government agencies at all—according to the charity Crisis, between 50 and 75 percent of all single homeless people have never used temporary shelter (Reeve and Batty 2011). Crisis estimates that the majority of homelessness is “hidden”—people with no fixed address who sleep on floors and sofas at the houses of friends or family, or sometimes even at their workplace. For women, this frequently translates into vulnerability to violence and sexual exploitation, as they are often specifically targeted by men offering shelter in exchange for sexual and domestic services. As for rough sleepers, there are no comprehensive statistics on their numbers; government figures show, however, that the number of counted rough sleepers has increased by 55 percent since 2010 —not including those who, for whatever reason, do not become visible enough to be counted.
evicted et al
Against this backdrop, the campaign to criminalize squatting saw itself confronted with a challenge: in order to make it plausible to parliament and the public that squatting was a pervasive “problem” that had to be stamped out, any connection between this practice and the chronic lack of affordable housing had to be categorically denied. Weatherley, and subsequently other govt agencies .. achieved this by enlisting the tabloid press in launching what has been described as a “moral panic” .. portrayed squatters as violent invaders, “parasites,” enemies to the values of society, and importantly, as foreigners (especially “Gypsies”) who had come to Britain to exploit its alleged “soft touch” approach to crime. In particular, it drew on the concept of “home” in a purposefully misleading way, as squatters were portrayed as thieves who invaded occupied properties when the inhabitants had just briefly left, and proceeded to “desecrate” this most personal and sacred of spaces. The government’s official position was that it did ‘not accept the claim that is sometimes made that squatting is a reasonable recourse of the homeless resulting from social deprivation. There are options open to those who are genuinely destitute and who need shelter which do not involve occupying somebody else’s property without authority. No matter how compelling or difficult the squatter’s own circumstances are claimed to be, it is wrong that legitimate occupants should be deprived of the use of their property.
This rhetoric of squatters “depriving legitimate occupants from the use of their property” was criticized even by the Criminal Bar Association and the Law Society as “headline-grabbing” and “unnecessary” ..In overwhelming majority of cases, squatters were well aware of this fact, and therefore targeted vacant residential properties .. a fact that the criminalization campaign purposefully ignored.
As an anthropologist researching squatting, I am frequently astonished at the prevalence of the view that there is a categorical distinction between the “vulnerable homeless” and so-called “lifestyle squatters” a.k.a. “political squatters.” ..it also demos that the govt’s targeted campaign to categorically divide squatters into the deserving victim and the undeserving scrounger has been successful .. One purpose of this book is therefore to extend this sparse existing research base by ethnographically documenting the circumstances, motivations, and practices of squatters in a specific local context, also and especially regarding the relationship between squatting and homelessness.
Based on 18n mos of fieldwork 2010- 2011 in Bristol, England, I aim to demo that while “homelessness” is a complex and multidimensional phenom, there is an undeniable connection between squatters and the “vulnerable homeless,” insofar as squatters saw themselves as homeless people who had chosen to do something about their vulnerability.
“Home” (the idea, if not the really existing home) describes a space of safe containment, a haven and sanctuary, within which the self “takes to cover, hides away, lies snug, concealed” (Bachelard 1994: 91).
bachelard oikos law et al
The violation of somebody’s “home” is thus perceived as morally reprehensible because it constitutes an illegitimate intrusion of the outside into the “sacred” inside, and the negative moral evaluation of the invader is due not only to his flaunting of social or legal rules but also to the fact that he has illegitimately gained access to a space within which he does not belong.
Like “dirt” for Mary Douglas is offensive because it is “matter out of place” (1966), so the figure of the invader invokes outrage because he is a “person out of place,” and in this very spatial nonbelonging consists his moral repugnancy. Enlisting this construction to vilify squatters was successful precisely because there is a moral consensus in our culture that a “home” should be free from intrusion, and to “steal” it constitutes not only an economic but also a moral violation.
The second purpose of this book is therefore to draw on the example of squatting and the politics that surround it to make a larger argument: that space is not only socially but also and especially morally constructed.
A brief history of “squatter ’s rights” (on perspectives/legalities of squatting)
A global phenomenon? (bunch of ie’s of diff places/types of squatting)
These practices appear to challenge the idea of squatting as inherently opposed to private property, but it would be too easy to attribute them to some kind of inevitable “tragedy of the commons.”
has to be all of us.. or it will always be tragedy of the non common
The homeless—or squatters for that matter—are a discrete group of people, perhaps even a “community,” but they are not a “culture” or “tribe” emerging from some quasi-natural process of cultural differentiation. As a group, they are constituted and reproduced not from within but through larger social, political, and economic processes causing them to experience a common set of problems and—in the case of squatters—develop communal practices to resolve these problems
Space, territory, and the body
“Property” thus becomes a convenient shorthand for the ability of some to control others’ access to particular kinds of space, a type of relation that has also been referred to as “human territoriality.” This term describes “the attempt by an individual or group to affect, influence, or control people, phenomena and relationships, by delimiting and asserting control over a geographic area” ..t
space itself, or more precisely, the ability to occupy some of it, is a crucial necessity for us. This primacy of spatiality for our experience is reflected in Maurice MerleauPonty’s (1962) Phenomenology of perception, which understands the spatial relation of the body to the world as prior to any reflective relation of consciousness
for embodied beings, the ability and entitlement to occupy space is a crucial survival concern.
embodiment (process of) et al
In order for our bodies to function, we need at minimum a safe place where we can rest and recuperate, by sitting or lying down undisturbed for a sufficient period of time.
The condition of homelessness, which at its most basic is defined precisely by the absence of entitlement to such a place, demonstrates how quickly this lack can translate into a matter of life and death: homeless people are five to six times more likely to die than the housed, with exposure being among the chief causes, along with “shocking” levels of violence inflicted upon them by the general population
The roots of this violence are a topic in itself, which I will talk about in chapter eight. What exposes the homeless to it, however, is their inability to escape it to what the settled take for granted: a place that shelters them from the hostility of the world.
entitlement to space is therefore a fundamental survival need, thus making control over access a chief concern within human relations.
again.. awful.. but not the problem deep enough for 8b people to resonate w today..
Our dependency on the ability to place ourselves somewhere means that we are as vulnerable to a lack of space as we are to a lack of any other survival resource, like water or air.
again.. while those seem like survival resources.. not the deeper needs.. not the healing (roots of)
Like the private hoarding of any other survival resource—for example, water—this creates a pervasive problem: if a few own something that everybody needs, then conflicts over access are unavoidable
this is huge.. and we’re missing it
If there is not enough to go around for everyone, then there must be some criteria by which to decide whose interests to privilege
ie of why the above (non legit survival needs) can’t be our first focus
The concept of “ethics”in this book
on diff between morality and ethics
Space as morally constructed
When I talk about the “moral construction of space,” I therefore refer to a form of what Mary Douglas called “patterning”—namely, the imposition of a symbolic order “whose keystone, boundaries, margins and internal lines are held in relation by rituals of separation”
yeah.. not grokking/resonating w this.. again seems like an irrelevant/distraction.. ie: constant line law; siddiqi border law; et al.. i think we need to deal w deeper issues.. first.. then space and space construction will become irrelevant.. to the dance
Anti-territorial ethics ?
As will become obvious, this ideal construction of a “nonterritorial space” was not always successfully implemented in practice, as the disputed status of squats often forced their inhabitants to act in territorial ways whether they wanted to or not
imagine the safe ness of this ‘safe space’: gershenfeld something else law
This strategy has had the effect that halfway through this ethnography, the reader may notice a shift in perspective: while we will spend the first four chapters looking into the field from the outside, we will spend the last four situated inside the field, looking out.
1 – of life and fieldwork
If anthropologists and the homeless have one thing in common, it is that they are people out of place.
Homelessness and placelessness are therefore in many ways synonymous: he or she who does not have a home is seen to consequently have no place in society at all.
as soon as we arrive in whichever place we have chosen to do our research in, we simultaneously lose our place as a “real” player, and become mere observers of circumstances that do not actually affect us much. The fieldworker thus joins the homeless person in a place where their presence within the network of social relations that constitute the system is, from the perspective of the system, superfluous, a nonposition. Both are seen to contribute nothing to the “real play of social activities” and thus, are presumed to have no stake in a social order they can only observe from the outside. ..While therefore both the anthropologist and the homeless person face a “de facto exclusion,” only the anthropologist can be assumed to have brought this state upon herself
To Gavin’s mind, this was not only silly, he took personal offence to it, since by recklessly embracing the very circumstances that were oppressing him, I was making a mockery of his hardship.. my bag-lady lifestyle constituted little more than a “game.”
” In declaring a place “the field,” we are making it our own; like intellectual nomads we pitch our tent and subsume those around us under its roof. At the same time, this mythical transformation of someplace into the field comes with a reordering of social relationships: under the “field” umbrella, relationships follow their own rules, and others are not necessarily aware that they have become the counterparts to our professional neuroses. What is conventionally accepted as “research ethics” is one aspect of this; declaring a place “the field” means that the fieldworker must adhere to formal rules of engagement, usually specified in special ethics procedures designed to avoid damage to research participants and lawsuits for universities. At the same time, anthropologists have spent extraordinary amounts of time discussing ethics outside of these formal codes, as the debates on reflexivity and power relations in recent decades demonstrate. But as important as these issues are, they do not yet touch upon what is perhaps the most profound issue—namely, the way that the notion of the field as a unilaterally declared space of engagement in and of itself produces particular moral relations. As Bourdieu writes, the peculiar placelessness of the fieldworker consists, first and foremost, in the fact that she does not need to be there, does not have to fit in or get along, can always choose to walk away and play a different game—much in contrast to those for whom the “game” is the stark reality of their lives. As Andrew Sayer puts it, “this removal from the pressures of practical activity also reflects and signals the privileged social position of the academic” .. and thus, declaring somewhere “the field” has the strange tendency to make the anthropologist untouchable, immune to the mundane concerns and anxieties of those to whom whatever is going on actually matters.
For anthropologists, there is therefore often a power move contained in “declaring the field”—and Gavin was all too aware of that. My relationship with Gavin has shaped the research for this book like none other, academic or ethnographic, and it is no exaggeration to say that without him, this book would not have been written. Our friendship was the happenstance result of the sort of cultural dilettantism that is the hallmark of the new immigrant (in this case, myself ).
Far from what I considered my professional purpose, his experience of the system of homeless provision was one of coercion and antagonism, and he empathically preferred squatting or even the street to the “help” the authorities offered him… Thanks to Gavin, I grew into this subpopulation for about a year, before the notion of “the field” ever became relevant.
if one has nothing at stake in a social situation, then one is at liberty to suspend moral judgment while those to whom things actually matter have no such privilege. This fact is a fundamental feature of the scripted configuration of relationships established by declaring the field; in sacrificing her place as a “real player,” the anthropologist asserts her privilege by renouncing the mundane restrictions imposed on those who, out of necessity, interpret the world around them in the form of normative judgments.
Casting the field as a “morally neutral zone” therefore automatically makes the anthropologist an outsider to precisely the dimension of social life that matters most to people, resulting in “bland accounts of social life, in
which it is difficult to assess the import of things for people”
If anything good is to come from a focus on the conditions of academic employment, therefore, then perhaps it is this insight: when it comes to life under global capital, we inhabit very much the same cultural universe, no matter how different our positions in it. To acknowledge this fact can potentially lead to friendship; more importantly, it can lead to the kind of recognition Axel Honneth (1992) means by the term “solidarity.”
The resulting mistrust of any kind of “data gathering” meant that anyone who wanted any information about squatting had better put their money where their mouth was and joined the “scene“ as a full member. This meant that my initial plan to rent a cheap room during “fieldwork” was soon abandoned, and I opted instead to go all in and live in squats throughout my research.
How it happened is a long story, but as a result, a few months into “fieldwork” I lost access to any kind of accommodation outside of squatting and found myself, formally and practically homeless, pushing a trolley through St Pauls.
2 – shelter
Yet, while they accepted that for “some people” these services were vital, these “some people” were always others; for themselves, services were seen to be doing more harm than good by separating them from community support and forcing them to become wholly dependent on the state.. reminiscent of what María Patricia Fernández-Kelly calls “distorted engagement”: “conditions in which govt agencies designed to address the problems of poverty supplant and transform normative exchanges in the economic, social, and symbolic realms . . . [until they] become a key factor eroding the capacity of [the poor] to mobilize resources and create alternative means of subsistence or defense”.. Squatting thus appeared preferable because it provided social (instead of just material) security as well as a greater scope for self-determination
In terms of their own understanding, however, squatting was seen as a remedy for, rather than an extension of, homelessness. A squatter, one could say, was a homeless person who had decided to take their fate into their own hands, and by virtue of this very fact had turned themselves into something other than homeless.
Despite the crammed conditions, however, this “most sordid of all havens, the corner” (Bachelard 1994: 137) functioned as my personal space, in the sense that everyone—residents and visitors alike—kept a respectful distance
In essence, this is nothing other than an evolutionary biologist’s version of Andrew Sayer’s claim, heard in the previous chapter, that things matter to people because they impact on whether we flourish or suffer. What is more, for Metzinger, our ability to flourish or suffer is inexorably bound up with our experience of ourselves as spatial: “By possessing a conscious, emotional self-model we are not only given to ourselves as spatially extended beings, but as beings possessing interests and goals” (2004: 384). The spatial nature of the self and its relation to the world therefore means that in many ways, we cannot help but symbolically order the world in spatial terms, also and especially when it comes to evaluation.
red flags we’re doing it/life wrong
If, as Merleau-Ponty asserts, “perception ends in objects,” that is to say, the objects we perceive are a result of our reflection, then reflection itself begins with the body being in the world, “in Hallowell’s terms, . . . an object among objects” (1962: 9). Yet, for the experience of selfhood to “end” in the object of the body necessitates that the body is perceived not just as one of a random collection of objects; for the embodied self, the body is never just “a body” but rather “my body,” not just “an object” but “the object that is me.” “.. Claims to, and about, bodies thus become claims about selves—about persons—precisely because for the embodied self, there is no such thing as “the body” as a general, abstract category. “The body,” even in the preobjective, existential sense of Csordas’s argument, is always either “my” body or something other than that
As Axel Honneth (1996) writes, violations of bodily integrity such as violence, torture, or rape therefore can have devastating psychological long-term consequences, precisely because the person’s taken-for-granted congruence with the bounded space of their body is (deliberately) shattered by the intrusion of another. Violence of this kind can thus be seen as a form of interpersonal colonialism, in that it establishes the territorial rule of another in the internal space of the self, and to undo this intrusion and reestablish confidence in one’s physical integrity can be a long and arduous process.
We therefore also consider private the area that is included in a person’s self-domain insofar as it provides the body with the minimum amount of space that it needs to rest and recuperate
and dream.. oikos (the economy our souls crave).. ‘i should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.’ – gaston bachelard, the poetics of space
On the one hand, we are therefore beings who experience ourselves as spaces; on the other hand, we exist only in and through space. These two dimensions of embodiment mean that we are, on the whole, extremely vulnerable to a lack of space, or more precisely, to a real or perceived lack of entitlement to occupy space.
“Where shall I hide?” (85)—until he experiences himself fading away under the authoritative ascription of otherness: “I moved toward the other . . . and the evanescent other, hostile but not opaque, transparent, not there, disappeared. Nausea” (84). Colonialism, for Fanon, is thus not only an experience of the external appropriation of the body, it also involves an internal displacement, an eviction from the occupation of his own body by the colonial gaze—“Where shall I find shelter from now on?”
As spatial beings, we are thus vulnerable not only to exposure but also and especially to the actions and attitudes of others that determine whether exposure will occur.
Unless the question of private property is addressed—an issue notably absent in the politicized “gift economy” concepts and possibly the reason they tend to appeal to middle-class liberals—an economic model that focuses entirely on consumption surplus is hardly a radical alternative to the status quo...t
hardt/negri property law et al
Squatting, on the other hand, addressed the rule of property directly, mostly by contravening it. This was true not only for squatters’ practice of setting up homes in vacant properties but also for the way that things were distributed within and between squats. Material goods came roughly in three categories: 1\ personal items ie: sleeping bags, clothes, mobile phones and laptops, books. .ownership rarely, if ever, disputed 2\ communal items..used by all residents, and were often the most difficult to salvage in the event of an eviction ie: tools, cookers, kitchen items, washing machines, amps, and occasionally a computer 3\ items that occupied a place somewhere in between the two—objects that were in principle communal but that somebody was presently using and that were therefore treated as if they were personal items until the person did not need them anymore. ie: mattresses, heaters, small furniture, lighting, and blankets
we keep missing this.. which is huge.. so we keep perpetuating the tragedy of the non common
ie: ‘Exchange of things between squats developed a particular dynamic in times of evictions..’.. too much tit for tat ness
The idea that “an attack on one is an attack on all” (an often cited squatter slogan) expressed, on the one hand, that the individual squatter was considered part of a larger social group who interpreted harm done to one of its members as harm done to its entirety. At the same time, the slogan was not just a veiled threat: it also expressed the idea that the vulnerability of one to attack was the vulnerability of all, that is to say, this vulnerability was what everybody shared in common. Few squatters were exempt from the threat of eviction, and even those who had been in long-term possession of their squats had no actual certainty that they would not be put out on the street on any given day. .. The stress of this enforced mobility, the occasional violence, and the reoccurring state of being without shelter let no one forget for long their dependency not just on the availability of a place to put their bodies but also on the requisite additional bodies to hold it down.. The ethical imperative contained in “an attack on one . . .” was thus a practical affirmation of precisely the fundamental interpersonal dependency that for Butler underlies ethical responsibility
3 – hope
older dictionaries of the English language show under the entry “hope” a version of the following: “a piece of enclosed land, e.g., in the midst of marshes or wasteland”; “a small enclosed valley”; or “an inlet, small bay, haven” Deriving from the Old English word “hop,” “hope” is therefore part of the name of many places, .. The historical connection between concepts of place and the anticipation of good things is not limited to the English language, as Dworkin notes: “in Hebrew, too…the words for hope and for a small enclosure derived from the same root” ..Although this use of the word “hope” has become obsolete in modern language, the connection it invokes between belonging and optimism points to the fact that to have hope for the future, one must be securely located in the present. It therefore represents what scholars have called the idea of “home as a haven” ..that is, a refuge and sanctuary, differentiated from the insecure and dangerous outside, and therefore, a place that allows for the sheltered self to project itself into a welcoming and inviting future.
This understanding of “home” as a safe haven or place longing is, of course, not uncontested. Critics have attacked the “idealized view of home perpetuated by such ideas”.., because home as “a secure, free, safe, or
regenerative space . . . [or] as a romantic space is not the reality of most people”.. Dworkin herself, never given to euphemism when it comes to the oppression of women, sums it up thus: “Home may be the equivalent of a woman’s prison: women may be locked inside or not permitted to egress or too injured to be able to leave; women may be tortured or burned alive there; women may be menial, brutalised, servants; legal chattel; sexual chattel; reproductive chattel’
Home is thus not only a contradictory concept, but one suspended between extremes, from the place of highest aspiration to that of the deepest despair. Home is imagined as a place where the continuous existence of body and mind is experienced as secure enough to warrant an optimistic outlook on the future, but it can just as well become a place of internment and existential threat, not only from violence, but also from the psychological removal of one’s secure place in the present and thus, in the future. At the same time, the home cannot simply be abstained from: homeless charities as well as support groups for victims of domestic violence (the clue is in the name) regularly report that many women and some men remain in abusive households because their only alternative would be to sleep rough. The fact that these people would rather endure violence than forego the minimal protection of sleeping indoors thus shows the existential necessity of shelter: even those for whom “home” is a prison cannot easily forego its promise to ensure that, even if one’s future lies in captivity, at least one has a future.
Gaston Bachelard—who, as an ex-postal-worker-gone philosopher knew a thing or two about being an “outsider”—considers the “home” to be an a priori condition of the development of psychic structure: “Before he is ‘cast into the world,’ as claimed by certain hasty metaphysics, man is laid in the cradle of the house” (1994: 7)3 and therefore, “a great many of our memories are housed . . . a psychoanalyst should, therefore, turn his attention to this simple localisation of our memories..
Like most psychoanalysts, Bachelard believes that the social structure of the earliest “home” is indelibly imprinted in the psyche of the individual, but he goes a step further than traditional Freudians in arguing that its spatial properties—its very architecture—are no less significant for the emergence of embodied consciousness: “The house we were born in is physically inscribed in us. It is a group of organic habits”
His “topoanalysis” is thus the reading of the psyche through the structure of the spaces it remembers inhabiting, since memory is always spatially situated and the unconscious, therefore, “entrenched in primitive abodes” (1994: 9). Just like Thomas Metzinger’s embodied self, Bachelard’s subconscious is fundamentally spatial, and thus predisposes us to structure our experience of the world in spatial terms. Bachelard firmly aligns himself with the “haven” school of thought about the “home,” and sees the original state of being as a state of oneness and wholeness from which “man” is only reluctantly expelled in the process of maturation. He protests against a metaphysics of consciousness that privileges the state of being “cast into the world” before the state of being secure in the “cradle” of the “home,” the very reason that “place” and “hope” were once so intimately
connected. “Home” to him is not a state of affairs that confronts us in certain spaces but rather a remembered state of securely being-at-home that we ourselves project onto the spaces we traverse. ..
Between being and yearning, then, stands the experience of being cast out, not necessarily as the expression of a universal human condition but rather as the expression of specific social relations that make the ideal state of being-at-home impossible. For squatters, this experience was a common one, crystallized at times of eviction, when “being is cast out, that is to say, thrown out, outside the being of the house,” so that the thus expelled wind up in “a circumstance in which the hostility of men and of the universe accumulates” (Bachelard 1994: 7).
The serving of “papers” followed meticulously detailed regulations, and the slightest deviation—such as serving them not on but through the door—could give squatters a lever to have court adjourned; and could thus mean a few more weeks of safety for the squat (while causing considerably more cost for the owner). Whoever had served the papers appeared to be well aware of this and had made a point of putting them right over our Section 6 like a bureaucratic trump card
The association between “home” and longing points to the fact that home is not so much a place as it is a process, the continuous approximation of something and thus an on-going project of becoming. Dovey (1985) contrasts the Heideggerian notion of “being-at-home” with a process of “becoming-at home,” which to her means precisely the process of appropriation that distinguishes mere geographical space from the relational space of “home.” In the case of squatting, this approximation did not always point to a harmonious trans-substantiation of the material world through human agency, as Dovey (and Heidegger) would have it. “Becoming-at-home” as a squatter implied a struggle, as the project of making oneself safe in the world required a confrontation with the social forces that prevented this from happening.
For squatters these forces thus, somewhat understandably, appeared like the incarnation of evil, as evidenced by frequent crude jokes about “hanging landlords from the lampposts” and similar. These jokes obscured the fact that at least in some cases, the landlord was not a faceless, powerful corporation but rather an ordinary citizen who had heeded the government’s advice that in order to receive any kind of pension, they were well advised to become “investors” in property, and so had sunk whatever modest savings they had into a cheap building they were ill-equipped to manage.. To acknowledge this would have required the ability—perhaps one should say, the luxury—of being able to look at one’s own situation dispassionately from a distance, something that is considerably easier to do when one is not faced with an immediate threat to one’s physical survival.
As it was, the delivery of “papers,” by which the institution of private property asserted itself, could not appear as anything other than a bureaucratic assault that breached the protective boundary of home, stripped away the temporary safety of the interior space, and put its inhabitants on the street: not, in the first instance, by putting them outside of the building, but by putting the unsafe, dangerous space of “the street” inside.
The immediate effect of “papers” was that even though the inevitable eviction was still weeks away, the social equilibrium of the house shifted. With the magic seal of the Section 6 broken, the outside had asserted its right to the inside space, and the resulting change in atmosphere manifested itself in a peculiar kind of carelessness. Cleaning and tidying became a thing of the past, and the house began to increasingly resemble the kind of desolate hovel that the tabloid press likes to make squats out to be. On the one hand, this was due to the fact that all energy now had to go into finding a new space, but the sudden drop in cleanliness seemed to point to more than just a lack of time. People spent less and less time in the house, dropping their things where they stood, and there were no longer nice roast dinners and film nights. I later came to think of this phase as “last-days-of-squat-mood,” as I observed the same phenomenon in most other squats when eviction was inevitable.
It was as if people severed their emotional connection with the building, shrinking back into their physical bodies after they had briefly extended their selves to encompass the space they were inside of. As Robert Desjarlais remarks, the built environment can have a “contagious effect” on the people who in it, “especially when they spent a lot of time in the same place and came to feel as if they were ‘part’ of a building”.. Losing the space therefore meant more than just having to change one’s location—it implied an act of separation, of the self becoming “other” to the place it had just been part of, and the place thus being discarded as irrelevant to the self, little different from a random public place
The arrival of court papers thus marked the precise point when the common theoretical distinction between a “house” and a “home” became practical for us.
As mentioned previously, squatters did not generally think of themselves as homeless, while at the same time insisting that squatting was a form of political action by the homeless. In part, as was already said, this was due to the perception that to take action and appropriate a space is in and of itself a remedy for homelessness, since in turning empty houses into homes it practically enacted the distinction between the house as property and the “home” as appropriated space.. In squatting, the transformation of a house into a home thus occurs at the precise same moment that a homeless person turns into a squatter, and ensuring access to a building was only the first step in this process. .. While we were still physically resident in the building, “papers” therefore marked the beginning of homelessness for us, not only in a legal sense—in this sense we were homeless all along—but in terms of the emotional and social quality of “home” as “the non-I that protects the I” – bachelard
a squat could be a home in all of these senses, but insofar as it was considered an alternative to homelessness, its primary function was to protect vulnerable bodies from harm. From the perspective of a homeless person, the dichotomy of “inside” and “outside” that guides much of the theoretical discussion of the “home”..can make all the difference between life and death.. ‘being homeless is incredibly difficult both physically and mentally and has significant impacts on people’s health and wellbeing. Homelessness leads to very premature mortality and increased mortality rates. Ultimately, homelessness kills. ‘(Thomas 2012: 8ff.)..This is not just due to exposure to the elements; the homeless are at a disproportionate risk of suffering all kinds of violent assault.. ‘Homeless people are often seen as a cause of crime, but the research suggests that in fact they are far more likely to be victims than they are perpetrators..’
“homeless people are over 9 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population” (Crisis 2011: 2).
Although “homelessness” can therefore indicate a lack of “home” in many of its dimensions—as a source of personal identity, for example, or as the legal entitlement to occupy space—the lack of a space that is relatively free from the constant risk of being beaten up, raped, insulted, mugged, or urinated upon, or of dying from cold, illness, or suicide, is arguably the most pressing problem homeless persons are faced with. Home as a place of longing, for them, thus has less to do with romanticized ideas of belonging but rather with the persistent hope of survival.
Mary Douglas has called the home a “memory machine,” in that it allows for past experience to be translated into future planning—for example, through enabling the storage of resources (1991: 294–95). “Papers” threw a wrench into this machine, not just by cutting short the expectation of physical shelter but also by removing the possibility to plan ahead by accumulating things for future use
testart storage law et al
Among the seven, fierce competition began to ensue as members tried to ascertain that they were an asset to the group rather than, to use Ralph’s favorite term, “a liability.” On the face of things, we were a leaderless and nonhierarchical crew, but there was nevertheless an unacknowledged hierarchy in terms of what and how individuals contributed to the group.
yeah.. that’s the deeper insecurity.. thinking people have to contribute.. and that their contributions need to be visible/accountable.. et al
The question of who would make the crucial contribution that resulted in a new home for us held implications for this person’s future status in the group.. The competitive atmosphere was contagious, and before long I found myself just as eager to prove myself an asset as the others. . translated directly into claims to the nicest rooms in the house,
The home thus assigns people different roles within its space—for example, through a sexual division of labor—and in this way, produces spatially defined categories of people. Home therefore, in one sense, “exerts a tyrannous control over mind and body” (1991:303) by circumscribing individual expression, “it is not authoritarian, but it has authority. It is hierarchical, but it is not centralized. The best name for this type of organisation is a protohierarchy” (306).
The structure of different spaces thus reflects what kinds of people are expected to inhabit them, and simultaneously works in more or less obvious ways to produce these kinds of people by compelling them to particular kinds of bodily practice. “
so then.. would not be a space free for dreaming et al.. sounds like forcing people to join rooms (art, music, programming) rather than listening for curiosity over decision making
In the following chapters, I will refer to such socio-spatial rule sets as spatial configurations. By this term I mean a recurring abstract ordering pattern that structures different types of space, and thereby produces recurring categories of people—one could also call it a socio-spatial ordering mechanism or algorithm.. Like the pattern of Douglas’s home, spatial configurations are also and especially about resource distribution. However, the resource here is not something contained within the space; rather, it is the space itself, or more precisely, the right to occupy it, which I will call spatial entitlement. For this reason, the social categories produced by a spatial configuration are morally loaded: they contain assumptions about the respective spatial entitlement that attaches to each social category; in other words, they specify how space should be distributed between different kinds of people. The production of “insiders” and “outsiders” through the practice of bordering, for example, implies
assumptions about their relative position in terms of their entitlement to occupy the inside space, and thus specifies their position not just in the spatial order but also in the moral order.
In this sense, Winstanley’s and Hobbes’s respective conceptions of the self can be seen as not just descriptive, but prescriptive: they each contain the blueprint of a particular moral order, expressed in a spatial imaginary that can structure the internal ordering of the self as well as that of the social and material space the self inhabits.
4 – codes of honor and protection
Sharing a space with others inevitably involves the explicit or implicit creation of, and adherence to, some kind of mutually accepted normative framework. ..in a new building the rules had to be renegotiated..a new squat meant a “clean slate” in terms of seniority for all who moved in simultaneously. ….Implicit in this understanding was the idea that whoever was thus most invested in the space was most vulnerable to its loss, and therefore, should have all the more say in how it was run and/or kept. Once we had moved into the nursery, however, the differences that had structured the group along these lines were wiped out: we were now all “equal”
” In this negative formulation, “Safe Space” refers to a set of behaviors that are forbidden on the basis that they are seen as common forms of structural oppression.. in “providing a space that is equally welcoming to everyone (except cops, fascists etc) irrespective of age, race, gender, background, sexuality and (dis)ability.” This somewhat convoluted formulation points toward the contradictory nature of “Safe Spaces”—while on the one hand intended for “everyone,” it was also assumed that some (here, “cops and fascists”) had to be excluded so that “everyone” could feel welcome.
understand.. but that won’t work toward global equity/change.. has to be all of us..
“Safe Spaces” were thus designed not so much to protect particular identities but rather as a practical critique of the binary logic of domination that produced them in the first place.
The principle of “Safe Space” can thus be seen as what in the previous chapter I have referred to as a spatial configuration. Ostensibly a set of rules about how to behave, the concept also implied a particular spatial order, which in turn produced moral categories of people: the “oppressors” and the “oppressed” as well as those called to solidarity with the latter.
“Safe Space” thus resembles the structure of the socio-spatial order implied in Gerrard Winstanley’s Garden
or Mary Douglas’s communitarian home—maximally permeable boundaries (open to “everyone” except those who threatened precisely this openness) are here again combined with an internal rule set designed to minimize hierarchy and maximize fairness in resource distribution, with the resource being the space itself.
In the most basic sense, territoriality means “the attempt by an individual or group to affect, influence, or control people, phenomena and relationships, by delimiting and asserting control over a geographic area. . . . This delimitation becomes a territory only when its boundaries are used to affect behaviour by controlling access” (Sack 1986: 19). What distinguishes the notion of territory from that of mere space is therefore on the one hand the element of bordering, which involves the interruption of the continuity of space in the shape of a strict demarcation of inside and outside, and the subdivision and rational ordering of the inside.
siddiqi border law et al
On the other hand, ..“territory” is space delimited for a particular purpose: that of exercising control over others.
As Sack argues, territorial behavior can be designed to benefit those controlled (for example, a parent limiting the spatial range of a child to keep it safe), or to harm them (such as an abusive spouse locking in their victim).
yeah.. i don’t think territorial behavior can ever benefit us.. it’s actually a huge/vital element of tragedy of the non common
These territorial displays on a bodily level are not coincidentally also rituals of masculinity on a symbolic level, and they therefore illustrate how gendered bodies are, in one sense, constructed in terms of territoriality.
The construction of “Safe Spaces” in the squatting scene was, in a number of ways, a response to this “existential nightmare.”
so responding to sea world w bandaids.. that cause even more damage/cancer..
In this sense, “Safe Space” policies paradoxically had the effect of turning squats into something like diminutive versions of the territorial state..
exactly.. band aid ness.. breaking problem down to more assumed manageable ness.. but not getting to the root..
It should therefore not particularly surprise that, as Kadir writes: “the squatter’s movement, which defines itself primarily as antihierarchical and anti-authoritarian, is profoundly structured by the unresolved and perpetual contradiction between both public disavowal and simultaneous maintenance of hierarchy and authority within the movement” .. In my view, however, while the transcendent goal of overcoming hierarchy once and
for all is certainly worthwhile, we should not lose sight of the partial, fleeting, and ephemeral moments of transcendence emerging from necessarily immanent relations. *It is in these fleeting moments, rather than in fixed and durable social structures, that the promise of an ethics of solidarity is made into a world.
5 – total places
” Newman argues that particular ways of organizing the material environment can serve to enhance security for residents and “design out crime,” making explicit reference to “territoriality” in order to argue that a sense of territorial ownership is at the root of people’s willingness to take responsibility for their “patch” ..Architectural design, according to this view, can not only serve to produce such a sense of ownership, it can also help to stop crime by enabling surveillance and social control, and by visibly excluding undesirable others through both aesthetics and security features such as gates and fences.
Defensible Space can thus be seen as another instance of what I have called a territorial spatial configuration—a hierarchically ordered and strictly controlled inside here once again corresponds with a strict delimiting from a “dangerous” outside, thus producing spatially organized, morally loaded categories of people. Had the Hobbesian “territorial self“ commissioned an architect, Newman would have been the candidate of choice.. (describing the hub in this way).. it thus also ordered the inside in a way that produced a moral hierarchy, which coincided with the degree of control over the space.
Jean Calterone Williams argues, for example, that the spatial structure of homeless shelters is produced in a way that allows social workers to intimately “know” their clients through a range of surveillance techniques, and thus serves to construct the homeless person not as somebody who has a problem, but somebody who is a problem.. Williams argues that the institutional task of “repairing” the homeless person (as opposed to changing the social order) is designed to engender individualizing and blaming attitudes among social workers. These find their material reflection in architectural arrangements that attempt to fix the homeless in space, and remove their personal shortcomings by means of an ever tighter mesh of social control. Inherent in this view is the notion of .. constructing territorial hierarchy through controlling access to space; in literally and figuratively granting the homeless person no place to hide, the social worker (or more precisely, the disciplinary apparatus the social worker represents) has simultaneously affirmed their subordinate position in the social order. t
wow.. yeah.. all this.. and then some
Surveillance technologies are among the chief weapons in this disciplinary war, not only in social service institutions, but also in public space.. Such “disturbances” can include busking, sleeping, cooking, or begging, or any other aspect of personal life that the street homeless are forced to conduct in public, such as attending to personal hygiene. In addition, control and regulation of public space have contributed to the development of a social service sector that is designed to contain the homeless so that they do not “disturb” the dominant vision of the city, rather than to combat homelessness..t This has led to an increase in measures to remove the homeless from public space and subject them to the “normalization regimes” of social services .. or increasingly, to simply round them up and ship them out of town ..While homeless persons are thus on the one hand denied a legitimate claim to occupy space, on the other hand, their spatial whereabouts are tightly controlled and policed, legitimized by their construction as alien and “dangerous” elements. ..homeless are construed as outsiders who have to be excluded, and simultaneously as insiders who occupy a subordinate position in the internal hierarchy and thus have to be subjected to control
The street homeless cannot, like settled people, escape the continuous presence of an anonymous gaze into the private space of the home, and it thus constitutes an even greater infringement on their privacy.. When the fascination with the CCTV finally faded, work began on restructuring the inner space of Schooner House. The desks were dismantled and from their parts, the squatters constructed small benches and tables, arranged in a number of circles across the room. A few donated sofas complemented the café like arrangement, and the walls had been painted a bright red color that somewhat clashed with the turquoise linoleum floor. ..
The result of the refurbishment resembled a very badly decorated living room, but the difference to the initial institutional architecture was immediately obvious. The way the space was ordered encouraged sitting comfortably in small circles without barriers, and although there were signs on the wall saying “no drugs, no alcohol, no abuse,” these were consensually decided rules that applied to the occupiers as much as any visitors. In reordering the space, the squatters had thus materially created the conditions of possibility for people to encounter one another not as opponents in an institutional war but as equal allies in a struggle against displacement.
According to Minton, it is not so much actual violence, but the potential violence inherent in unequal social relationships that motivates the building of “gated communities” and the surveillance of public space. It is not difficult to recognize in this again the paranoia of the Hobbesian self who is preoccupied with keeping the “outsiders” out at all costs, in this case, however, reinforced by the fact that the territorial self knows all too well that those outsiders really do have something to complain about. Their demand for equal access to space must therefore somehow be delegitimized. In the case of homeless people, this is achieved in part by ascribing to them characteristics— “personality disorders,” a lack of work ethic, addictions, et cetera—that mark
them out as fundamentally different and thus both “explain” and legitimize their exclusion. In the context of capitalist relations, this argumentative figure has the
added effect of casting the homeless as so “other” that the settled person can suppress all fear that, but for the grace of the market, it could be them huddling in a doorway next..t
tweets to here
The “ruling class” was constructed in opposition to a subjugated class, which the occupiers saw both themselves and other poor and homeless people belonging to. Who exactly the “ruling class” consisted of in sociological terms was decidedly secondary in this view: the “ruling class” was simply whoever happened to be in power
david on discovery.. if power can be stupid et al
The homeless are not normally asked their opinions on social policy.
Their role consists in putting their bodies in the locations assigned to them by social service agencies or police and security, and to show appropriate gratitude that a place is assigned to them at all..t For them to ostensibly take up space of their own accord and then write press releases about it was unusual, to say the least. The ensuing confusion on the part of the press and council is reminiscent of the words of political scientist Corey Robin: ‘..the appearance of an insistent and independent voice of demand—that vexes their
the squatters had decidedly hit a nerve.
The agenda was based on the juxtaposition of a paternalistic Big State with a bottom-up, community-based Big Society.. but.. the Big Society was not merely superficial PR icing on a bitter austerity cake. Wrapped in a rhetoric of localism, self-help, and social entrepreneurship, it appeared to be grounded in a peculiar combo of a conservative understanding of “place” and “community” on the one hand, and (neo)liberal market radicalism on the other. In this way, it combined ideas about the organization of space with ideas about morality in a way typical for conservative ideology, and it can thus illuminate the way in which this ideology contained, at its core, the moral structure of a territorial spatial order.. The agenda was framed in emotive language that invoked images of community, local autonomy, and belonging (in the sense of knowing one’s place), delivered with a moralistic undertone
On the face of things, “unleashing community engagement” and “turning government on its head” was exactly what the HUB occupiers were doing. The irony was not lost on the press, who gave the occupation a fair amount of airtime. I can relate that the squatters were genuinely not planning to stage a satire
essentially the political program the Big Society stood for, thus providing a contemporary repackaging of traditional conservative values, with the added twist that a redefinition of “philanthropy” as “venture philanthropy” ..now explicitly promised the charitable a return on investment.
The agenda combined two at-first-glance contradictory elements: 1\ a rhetoric of “localism” that invoked an idealized past; and 2\ a program of increased marketization of those social services that the political left usually sees as the domain of the welfare state
conservatism in general is strongly associated with members of the traditionally dominant “race” and class groups and its “primary fetish”—namely, property—“is firmly attached to inequalities of power and is always about hierarchy”, also and especially moral hierarchy.. The maintenance of these hierarchies has traditionally been legitimized through a paternalistic view of the poor as morally corrupted and thus unable to govern themselves.. justification of inequality on the prerogative—if not duty—of the morally superior to govern the morally weak..t
“no matter how democratic the state, it was imperative that society remain a federation of private dominions, where husbands ruled over wives, masters governed apprentices, and each should know his place and be made to keep it”.. This view quite frankly speaks of the need to hierarchically order the territory of the state through the territorial microcosm of “home” and workshop, thereby reproducing hierarchical social categories such as “gender” and “class.”
gare enslavement law et al..
despite the fact that in times of econ crisis, violence against women/girls normally rises..fathers, discipline, effort, punishment, responsibilities, control—echoes a return to an authoritarian patriarchal order in which women risk being fettered to male partners they have no option of escaping should they deem it necessary to establish some “discipline.” .. domestic violence is among the leading causes of homelessness in women, and limiting their options of independent survival often leaves them only the choice between imprisonment in the “home” and the “Hobbesian nightmare” of the street.
as David Cameron put it: “The once natural bonds that existed between people, of duty and responsibility, have been replaced with the synthetic bonds of the state: regulation and bureaucracy.”
tweets to here
6 – the enemy within
It is widely recognized in the literature that while previous psychological trauma is one of the main risk factors associated with homelessness, the experience of homelessness is also in and of itself traumatic: “Like other traumas, [it] may produce a psychological sense of isolation or distrust as well as the actual disruption of social bonds . . . [because] . . . becoming homeless strips people of most of their accustomed social roles”
some too prefer being stripped of those roles..
Homelessness has been described as a form of “social death” ..pointing to the fact that a breakdown of the social affiliations that inform a person’s sense of identity is in itself a traumatic experience.
Thatcher’s programmatic slogan “Economics are the method; the object is to change . . . the heart and soul of the nation”
points toward a fundamentally pedagogical objective: like the
inventor of Defensible Space, Thatcher believed that in order to take responsibility for their “patch,” people must have a sense of territorial ownership, here underwritten by a legal contract. Whoever did not own a “patch” thus automatically came under suspicion of not being fully capable of taking responsibility within the civic order—a failure to “get on the property ladder” thus meant that one had not only failed economically but also (and especially) morally.
How successful this “change of heart and soul” was implemented became apparent in the wake of the 2008 crisis, when the media bemoaned in unison that young people were being denied the opportunity to “grow up” and “start a life” because they were unable to earn or save enough to buy a house. Being part of a “generation of renters”—on the continent a perfectly acceptable thing to be—was quite literally seen as denying people access to full adult
personhood, and thus keeping them in a position of childlike dependency on other people’s assets.
Homeownership in Britain spoke of a similar moral order, modified by a feudalistic undercurrent that meant that owning one’s home was not only a sign of one’s independent success—as in the American understanding—but also held the whispered promise of power over others. Jefferson does not compare her homeowners to renters, and so it is difficult to know whether her finding that “(suicide) was also discussed as a poignant link between home and self, suggesting that the loss of the home is tantamount to the loss of life” is attributable to the loss of shelter or the loss of property. It does appear, however, that the invocation of suicide was an expression of one’s shame at having turned out to be vulnerable to loss and dependent on others: “In suicide stories, it is often implied that the victims are middle class
or of the stable working class, individuals who are ‘not accustomed to asking for help’” Jefferson’s respondents had apparently internalized so well the idea that the only life worth living is one of insularity that the only alternative was (at least rhetorical) death.
The communitarian allocation of spatial entitlement according to vulnerability or need, as implied in the idea of social housing, was thus thoroughly delegitimized as fostering morally reprehensible interdependency, and replaced
with a moral order in which entitlement was the result of individual market success and at the same time the sole indicator of moral worth. The Big Society agenda picked up on this notion by responding to the ongoing housing crisis with a discourse that painted the unavailability of home ownership as primarily caused by subsidized housing..tenants who could afford to access property at market price preferred to remain in cheaper council accommodation, which was therefore not available to those in “real need.”
In this sense, the Big Society rhetoric served quite overtly
to construct morally loaded social categories through the unequal assignment of territorial entitlement. The fact that this was dressed up as a discourse about private property (in the sense of a politico-legal entitlement) should not obscure the fact that it was at its core about controlling access to space. “