ReROOT Output

IMISCOE Panel: Housing Policies and Non-Voluntary Mobilities

Housing Policies and Non-Voluntary Mobilities
*indicates ReROOT researcher

Wed July 3, 14:50–16:20, Session #103 panel | SC Reflexive Migration Studies

Chair: Tamlyn Monson, University of Coventry, Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations*
Discussant: Kristen Sarah Biehl, Sabanci University*

Forms of urban displacement related to housing affect a range of subjects, moving our understanding of mobility beyond the statist dichotomy of “migrants” and “citizens”. The term “evictability”, for instance, captures a common vulnerability to being removed from a sheltering place (Van Baar 2017; De Genova et al., 2021). Both migrants and some formal citizens can be affected by “enforced” or “unfree” mobility (Yildiz & De Genova 2018), whether through involuntary asylum dispersal (Darling 2022), ‘renoviction’ or displacement by estate regeneration (Pull 2020; Watt 2018; 2022), or enforcement measures taken to move street homeless people on (Johnsen et al 2020) or destroy informal dwelling places (Benyera & Nyere 2015; Annunziata 2020).

There is also an emerging recognition within migration studies that common mechanisms of marginalisation exist between social groups that are conventionally studied in siloes. This recognition makes space for the emergence of new solidarities across such categories as citizen and non-citizen, migration and class (Anderson 2013; Vickers 2020). It offers potential to unite precarious citizens and immigrants in a common struggle for social justice, in the face of national governments that polarise these groups through scapegoating and discourses of deservingness.

Resonating with calls to ‘de-migrantize’ research on migration (Dahinden 2016), and to ‘de-exceptionalise displacement’ (Anderson 2021), this panel explores commonalities in the experience of non-voluntary mobilities at the sub-national level among international migrants and autochthons alike, drawing attention to the struggles faced by those who find themselves moved by housing-related policies, systems and processes beyond their control.

Soon-to-be, but not quite yet: inhabiting ‘extended transiency’ in Istanbul

Francesco Pasta (Milan Politecnico)

Everyday inhabitation in globalizing cities is increasingly impermanent, provisional, and uncertain: a complex condition of extended transiency, continuously stretched out over time and across social boundaries categorizing people as 'temporary', 'in transit', 'on the move'. The relevance of such in-between time and space in relation to various forms of vulnerability and non-voluntary mobility is particularly manifest in sites of ‘everyday urban geopolitics’ where internal and cross-border human flows intersect with capital flows propelling extractionist restructuring processes.

The paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Fikirtepe, a neighbourhood in Istanbul undergoing a large-scale redevelopment since 2005 – with no end in sight. As the neighbourhood’s fabric is being ripped apart and heightened socio-spatial inequalities are crystallized in close proximity, many long-time dwellers have already left, yet others do hold on, alongside various categories of ‘outsiders’ – seasonal workers, refugees, circular migrants – who have recently been settling into this borderland.

Here, a sort of integration on the ground unfolds below official migration, urban development and housing policies, and beyond the conventional narrative of ‘community’. A set of place-based interdependencies – circuits of information, contacts, and resources – enable long-time residents and migrant newcomers to maintain a foothold in the city and stand ‘on their feet’ under increasing pressure. Looking at this dynamic and contested setting, the paper explores the factors concurring to produce conditions of ‘extended transiency’, and how different transient populations inhabit together the extended time-space of failing urban transformation under shared, if differing, circumstances of informality, vulnerability, and temporariness.

Between Walls and Fences: Houseless People’s Campgrounds of Resistance, as means to navigate the Carceral Grips, Non-Voluntary Mobilities and Housing Policies in Affluent Nations

Luisa T. Schneider (Vrije Universitiet Amsterdam)

In international human rights law and domestic law, privacy and intimacy are basic rights. However, these rights are affixed to an approach that takes for granted that the private sphere is separated from the public sphere by the walls of one's own home. Independent housing is thus intimately linked to safety and wellbeing; it provides the space to secure one’s most fundamental needs in life without intrusion or surveillance. Based on five years of deep ethnographic research with houseless people in Germany, this paper examines how, in affluent countries, visible poverty, houslessness and precarity are construed as a security risk for the nation. I show how housing policy that attempts to move rough sleepers from the streets into camps, shelters, or supervised housing can inadvertently subscribe them to a system of surveillance and supervision. I query how rough sleepers navigate their illegalization, containment and surveillance by moving between streets, housing institutions and the prison mutually resisting, embracing and reshaping their rendering ‘out of place’. By analyzing how rough sleepers themselves are establishing camps and encampments in public spaces, abandoned buildings and construction projects—fencing themselves against fences—I show how they use camps both as defense towards and critique of the carceral grip. Building camps to navigate non-voluntary mobilities, to resist confinement, separation and invisibilities enables rough sleepers to critique their construction as objects or passive victims and forcefully oppose individual and systemic consequences of a politics of entrapment and disappearance.

“Are we criminals?” – everyday racialisation in temporary asylum accommodation

Taulant Guma (Edinburg Napier University)

This paper critically examines the forced relocation of people seeking asylum in temporary accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is based on a 14-month collaborative ethnography conducted between 2020 and 2022 with asylum seeking individuals in Glasgow. While the housing policy to move asylum seekers to temporary accommodation was framed by state authorities and private firms as providing a “safe environment” from COVID-19, we show how these relocations amounted to a racialised process which constructed our participants as “undeserving” and “unworthy” of protection and care during a period of crisis. Our analysis highlights how this racialisation took place not only on a policy level but also in practice through everyday encounters with private provider staff. Advancing the literature on involuntary asylum dispersal through new theoretical and empirical contributions, we argue that the rise of temporary forms of asylum accommodation can be understood as constitutive of racial modes of belonging within a regime of differential humanity.

Homing negotiations and precarity in the shadow housing market of an arrival area

Cornelia Tippel (ILS – Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development, Dortmund, Germany)*

Current processes of the ‘global urban housing affordability crisis’ (Wetzstein, 2017) lead to tight housing markets also in Germany. Because of housing policies – a shortfall in social housing – and discrimination processes, migrants are channelled to arrival neighbourhoods. Arrival neighbourhoods’ housing markets are characterised by a ‘shadow economy’ in which households often have no choice but to move into housing of debatable quality mediated through brokers (Bernt et al., 2022). This paper examines the consequences of these processes on the (im)mobilities of migrants.

Based on empirical material such as interviews with migrants and staff in advice centres and participant observation of residents’ meetings and advice interactions, our material shows that the housing situation of migrants reflects the conditions of the ‘shadow’ housing market. Here, in conditions of precariousness and uncertainty, households attempt to negotiate with landlords over housing deficiencies, often with help from advice services, while facing the danger of being evicted if the house is declared uninhabitable by the authorities. Beyond access to housing, the creation and maintenance of suitable housing conditions often remains an ongoing struggle for migrants (and possibly other vulnerable groups).

Coping with and overcoming such precarities and uncertainties will be conceptualised as part of ‘homing’ (Boccagni, 2022) – creating conditions of home together with both household members and a variety of actors, including advice services. Thus, achieving a degree of choice in housing conditions becomes an ongoing individual and joint, emotional and material activity in the shadow housing markets into which many arrivals are chanelled.

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