RC 21 conference presentation
Session 65. Matters Turn Political. Loved and Contested Materialities of Cities
(July 15 2021, 2–3:30pm)
“It was a home; it was ours”: materiality, citizenship, and the politics of home-ownership in informal dwelling
Homeless people are usually considered as citizens without property. The absence of ownership, especially in terms of housing, co-creates the very idea of homelessness in current societies. Despite this fact, homeless citizens negotiate and experience their property, things, or the shelter in which they dwell. This paper attempts to shed light on how this property is negotiated and experienced and how it influences political agency. It does so by drawing on long-term ethnographic research in the city of Pilsen, Czechia. Based on the intra-urban comparison of informal dwelling in two abandoned buildings – a former railway station tower and an allotment cottage – the paper argues that informal citizenship arises from the assemblage of socio-materiality, where the politics of home-ownership has a crucial position. While politics is related to power asymmetry within a common dwelling, paradoxically, it also brings about more complex citizenship and the potential for political action involving urban politics.