Awarded: European Research Council Starting Grant on ‘Radical Housing’

I am so happy to share that I am one of the 2019 recipients of the European Research Council Starting Grant, with my project “Radical Housing: Cities and the global fight against housing precarity

This has been such a humbling experience and an honour!

I couldn’t have done it without the support received from the Faculty of Social Science at Sheffield. A huge thanks to my colleagues at the Urban Institute (now it’s two ERC recipients there with the wonderful Vanesa Castan Broto) and to my colleagues at USP (in particular John Flint and Ryan Powell). And also many others indeed — including the wonderful
Colin McFarlane and Paolo Boccagni who shared their projects and advised on how to go about this whole ERC business! Also a continuining thank you to my comrades of the Radical Housing Journal and of the Frontul Comun pentru Dreptul la Locuire for the continuing inspiration and solidarity.

Finally a huge thank you to my family and to my partner Leo for the patience and support. Below you can read the abstract and logo of this project, which will begin in Spring 2020.

 

Radical Housing: Cities and the global fight against housing precarity

According to UN-Habitat, each year millions of people face forced eviction from their homes, while a staggering 1.6 billion are inadequately housed. Forecasts suggest housing precarity will continue to grow in future, worldwide. In response, grassroots housing movements are becoming increasingly common. Crucially, these groups fight for more than just housing, often advancing critiques of wider societal inequalities. Yet little is known of the broader significance of these struggles, and research has failed to offer an understanding of geographically dispersed movements. The ways in which the fight for the right to housing operates is essential to understand contemporary urban life. RadicalHOUSING will fill these critical gaps through an innovative Radical Housing Approach and pioneering empirical research at a global scale.

First, the project identifies the importance of a historical understanding of dwelling precarity, to appreciate the relevance of housing struggles worldwide (Objective I). Second, it investigates and profiles prominent grassroots networks in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia to analyse their goals and organisational culture (Objective II). To appreciate the wider significance of radical housing resistance, the project deploys an ambitious ethnographic encounter with grassroots struggles in eight emblematic cities (Objective III). It then brings selected participants and experts together in a Global Forum of Radical Housing, fostering the exchange of peer-to-peer knowledge to generate further findings (Objective IV). Finally, the project will gather these insights into an innovative critical comparative framework, which will lead to agenda-setting publications, interventions, and academic scholarship (Objective V).

RadicalHOUSING is a ground-breaking project that will contribute to housing, urban and geographical studies, as well as to grassroots knowledge, opening a new phase in understanding the global fight against housing precarity.

Joining the Unequal cities network @UCLA

I am thrilled to join #UnequalCities Network at UCLA as a core partner. This is one of the most exciting housing justice initiative bridging research & activism out there at the moment http://unequalcities.org. A big thank you to Ananya Roy for the invitation!

I am also happy to share this with a couple of Radical Housing Journal’s core Editors (Erin MC EL and Melissa Garcia Lamarca) www.radicalhousingjournal.org (and of course, there is also the amazing Desiree Fields in there too!)

Review forum on my documentary in Dialogues in Human Geography

Dialogues in Human Geography published a review forum of my documentary A început ploaia/It started raining. The Forum contains reflections that encompass the film, to discuss issues of co-production, research-activism, evictions and the history of housing restitutions in Eastern Europe. It contains four contributions from scholars working on these themes since many years, whom I admire for their scholarship and commitment. These include:

  • Katherine Brickell, on Forced eviction, intimate war and disposable homes
  • Liviu Chelcea, on After Engels: Evictions and the urbanization of anti-communism
  • AbdouMaliq Simone, on A film: A comment
  • Ana Vilenica, on Becoming an accomplice in housing struggles on Vulturilor Street

The Forum is wrapped up with a final contribution by myself, entitled Caring for the endurance of a collective struggle.

The essays can be read on Dialogues’ webpage. My contribution can be also read on Academia.edu or Research Gate. Thanks to Ugo Rossi (University of Turin) for organizing this Forum!

 

Powerful screening of ‘A inceput ploaia’ in Berlin

On Friday 06/06/19 we screened our FCDL documentary film around evictions in Romania at the 11th meeting of the European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City, after a day of workshops and direct action-protest. Although the film has already been screened and debated in more than 35 occasions across Europe (and beyond), this time the night took a powerful turn. The room was filled with activists coming from all corners of the continent watching the 72 minutes of the documentary with attention. They were drawn by its politics. They did not need for somebody to explain it to them: they simply connect to it, watched, and concluded the screening with a very long applause.

The best part took place at the end, in the Q&A session, thanks to the fact that a member of the Vulturilor 50 community was there with us. Emanuel Georgescu – one of the brothers of our comrade Nicoleta – powerfully answered to a number of questions regarding his own experience and the racialized politics of evictions he was subjected too. FCDL member Ioana Florea and myself contributed to the conversation as well, covering a number of points related to the history of restitution and the broader international causes of evictions like that of Vulturilor.

It was a powerful night, which energized many of us and allowed for new bonds to emerge. This is why I spent so much time doing A început ploaia/It started raining: yesterday the role that this film can play as a radical political tool of education, exchange and solidarity came really to the fore.

New paper: Radical housing and the politics of dwelling as difference, in IJHP

Earlier this year I was invited to give one of the keynotes at the Housing Studies Association conference in Sheffield, UK. My talk was sponsored by the International Journal of Housing Policy, which has now published an extended version of my speech at the HSA.

The paper, entitled Radical housing: on the politics of dwelling as difference, is the first of the Journal’s new series of ‘Housing Futures’ essay, where leading scholars will be invited to address the contemporary housing debate from different angles. In my contribution I attack mainstream notions of what is considered to be ‘radical’ when it comes to ‘housing’, and I introduce a more nuanced (decolonial and feminist) take with the notion of ‘dwelling as difference’.

This paper expands on my previous works on housing precarity, homelessness and housing resistance, but it also opens up a new phase in my research interests. It also goes hand in hand with the work that I am doing with a number of comrades in the Radical Housing Journal.

The paper can be downloaded from the publisher’s website here, or on Research Gate or Academia.edu. Below you can find the abstract.

Radical housing: on the politics of dwelling as difference

Urbanites worldwide fight for their right to housing and the city in ways that encompass what Westernized and masculine takes on ‘radical politics’ make of them. This intervention proposes a decolonial, grounded and feminist approach to investigate how resistance to housing precarity emerges from uncanny places, uninhabitable ‘homes’ and marginal propositions. This is a form of ‘dwelling as difference’ that is able to challenge our compromised ‘habitus’ of home at its root, from the ground of its everyday unfolding. The article argues that only looking within those cracks, and aligning to their politics, new radical housing futures can be built with urbanites worldwide.

Keynote @EUGEO on Lessness: Recentering the politics of home

Today I will open the 7th EUGEO Congress in conjunction with the 51st Conference of Irish Geographers, here in the west of Ireland – Galway City. The theme for the 2019 conference is Re-Imagining Europe’s Future Society and Landscapes.  This is one of the largest gathering of Geographers in the world, alongside the RGS-IBG (UK) and the AAG (USA).

In my keynote I will situate my grounded critical approach to homelessness, as I have developed in my research it in the last 10 years. This is essentially a call to de-instutionalize our approach to the matter and to cease seeing ‘homelessness’ as in opposition to idealized notions of ‘home’. The latter needs to be re-thought in their entirety in order to tackle the root of housing precarity, and of the trauma associated with it. These are key themes that I am developing at the Urban Institute, through the Life at the Margins research theme.

Thank you to Kathy Reilly (Galway) for the invitation and support. The abstract of my intervention can be found below.

Abstract for EUGEO conference
On Lessness: Recentering the politics of home.
Michele Lancione
m.lancione@sheffield.ac.uk

Homelessness is one of the strongest cultural signifiers of the contemporary urban age. It works as a machine intersecting structural economic inequalities with cultural stigmatisation, on top of which a whole assemblage of personal traumatic experiences, institutional policing, and charitable interventions flourish. Despite its pervasiveness, homelessness is still framed as a ‘phenomenon’, a social ‘issue’ amongst others to be dealt with: homelessness as the negation of ‘home’. But what if homelessness is not the exception arising from the lack of shelter, but instead the full and most quintessential representation of what ‘home’ is within capitalistic modes of organising and being? In other words, what if ‘homelessness’ cannot be solved, unless one is ready to fundamentally alter the parameters of ‘home’? This keynote address ‘homelessness’ as a socio, cultural and economic process configured within an exclusionary understanding of ‘home’ and assembled through a number of governmentalities, which are identified with the notion of ‘lessness’. Through several ethnographic vignettes, the fundamental relationship between ‘lessness’ and ‘home’ is showed, revealing the impossibility of any reconfiguration without radical change. The latter is addressed through a number of propositions around a new politics of ‘home’.

Relevant works in relation to the theme of the keynote:

  • Lancione, M. (monograph in preparation). On Lessness: Recentering the politics of home
  • Lancione, M. (2019) Weird Exoskeletons: Propositional Politics and the Making of Home in Underground Bucharest. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 43.3, 535–50.
  • Lancione, M. (2016a) Racialised dissatisfaction: homelessness management and the everyday assemblage of difference. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 41.4, 363–75.
  • Lancione, M. ed. (2016b) Rethinking life at the margins: the assemblage of contexts, subjects and politics. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, London ; New York.
  • Lancione, M. (2016). Beyond Homelessness Studies. European Journal of Homelessness, 10(3), 163-176
  • Lancione, M. (2014c). The spectacle of the poor. Or: ‘Wow!! Awesome. Nice to know that people care!’ Social & Cultural Geography, 15(7), 693–713.
  • Lancione, M. (2014b). Entanglements of faith: Discourses, practices of care and homeless people in an Italian City of Saints. Urban Studies, 51(14), 3062–3078.

New paper: Life in the underground of Bucharest, out in IJURR

In 2003 I visited Romania as an Erasmus student and I got hooked. In particular, I got hooked by the encounter that I had with a community of ‘homeless’ people living in an underground chamber close to the Grozăveşti metro station, in Bucharest. From that moment on I kept on being interested in homelessness and housing precarity, and more specifically in the politics of life at the margins. I kept returning to Bucharest in the following years, to finally find myself again in the city in 2014 – this time with the opportunity to engage with it ethnographically (thanks to the Urban Studies Foundation).

During my time there (2014-2016) I became involved with issues of eviction, race, restitution politics and resistance that brought me to become part of the Common Front for the Right to Housing (FCDL), to fight alongside the Vulturilor 50 community, to produce a documentary film, and to write around the Roma resistance and its uncanny politics (in EPD and Geoforum). That, however, was never meant to be my ‘fieldwork’. The latter took place with drug users and ‘homeless’ people mainly in two distinct places in the city, which have nothing to do with the work I undertook around evictions and resistance. These places are the Alea Livezilor in Ferentari – where I worked with the fundamental help of the NGO Carusel – and the underground tunnels passing below the main train station of the city, Gara de Nord (where I encountered the great work of Massimo Branca, and of people like Dan Popescu and Alina Dumitriu).

It took me a while to start writing about Ferentari and Gara de Nord, mainly because I decided to prioritize the political work done with FCDL in Vulturilor. Now, however, I am going back to it and I am very happy to say that my first paper on the Gara de Nord community is now out in IJURR.  This is just the first step of a work that aim to cast a different light on what was going on within that tunnel, before the violent sensationalistic ‘poverty-porn’ of international media lead to its foreclosure.

IJURR has been incredibly supportive, as have been a number of people that I thank in the acknowledgement section of this paper (including Maliq Simone for the inspiring scholarship and friendship, Irina Georgescu, Zamfi Irina and Charlotte Kuhlbrandt for their support in Bucharest, Eleonora Leo Mignoli for the unconditional love). One extra thank to IJURR for making it completely open-source – the paper can be freely downloaded here:

http://www.ijurr.org/article/weird-exoskeletons-propositional-politics-and-the-making-of-home-in-underground-bucharest/

Keynote @HSA on Radical housing: On the politics of dwelling as difference

On Friday the 12nd of April, 2019, I gave my plenary speech at the Housing Studies Association Conference in Sheffield. The conference, organized by Ryan Powell (Sheffield) and Jennifer Hoolachan (Cardiff) was centred around themes of housing precarity, activism and resistance. The level of discussion and the quality of the papers presented was of a very high standard and the all event was a huge success.

My keynote was sponsored by the International Journal of Housing Policy, with the incredible support of Dallas Rogers (Sydney) and Emma Power (Sydney). The paper will be soon published as the first of their new series of essays around ‘Housing Future’. This was an incredible opportunity for me to think around some of the key themes in my research, from homelessness to housing resistance and everything in-between.

Below you can find the abstract of my intervention at the HSA.

Abstract for HSA conference
Radical Housing: On the politics of dwelling as difference
Michele Lancione
m.lancione@sheffield.ac.uk

In their modes of organising and fighting housing injustice, radical housing movements demand more than ‘just’ housing. Across the urban north and south, they bring to the fore profound critiques of dominant economic, cultural, and societal inequalities. Scholarship investigating these grassroots efforts is copious but still limited: it theorises ‘radical’ struggles mostly from a Western tradition; it largely fails to bring resistance into dialogue with new modes of theorising the city; and it is still too cautious in its theorisation of the political. More and better can be said to grasp how millions of urbanites worldwide change their cities and lives through their fight for decent housing. The paper advances a new epistemological orientation to tackle these questions, expanding on decolonial, vitalist and processual approaches to urban studies. It proposes to rethink the politics of urban precarity from the ground of dwelling, as a historical and generative assemblage that needs to be traced in its unfolding to appreciate its unconventional politics. The paper contributes to scholarship interested in a critical understanding of embodiment, politics, and housing resistance beyond established conventions of ‘radical’ practice and theory.

Launching The Radical Housing Journal

I am so proud and energized by the launch of the Radical Housing Journal: a new, peer-reviewed, open-source publication that cuts across the academy and housing movements internationally.

Together with a feminist, anti-racist and horizontally organized collective made of 13 people (10 women, 3 men) scattered across the globe, we have been working very hard in the last three years to bring this project to fruition. Following the successful launch of our first issue at the 2019 AAG in Washington, we are now actively looking for high quality contributions to be published in 2020, addressing the root causes of housing injustice, its experiences and resistance.

The RHJ is a complex machine that aims to work for radical politics both within its own structuring and mechanisms of knowledge production, and through the support of direct actions in the realm of housing resistance.

Below, you can read the editorial that the RHJ Editorial Collective wrote to present the Journal to its readers, in issue 1.1. Issue 1.2 will be out in September.  To know more about how we work, feel free to visit our website: www.radicalhousingjournal.org.

Introducing the Radical Housing Journal

RHJ Editorial Collective
PUBLISHED IN ISSUE 1.1 // EDITORIALS

The idea for the Radical Housing Journal emerged in 2016 from few but passionate conversations in activist and scholarly spaces. From this, the idea developed at a dizzying speed, and the collective grew from two to five to 13 committed scholar-activists spread across the globe. Most of us did not know each other before joining the journal and many of us have never physically met. In under three years, we have set up an editorial collective, managed a complex web of tasks and projects (related to financing, web-site, and much more), received an overwhelming number of submissions, and are now proud to present our first issue.

The urgency of the project is obviously also a product and response to the level of mobilization around the fight for the right to housing and the city that has been taking place in recent years worldwide. Perhaps, the RHJ was, in a sense, bound to happen. This said, many of us have been involved in radical housing politics and politically engaged research before concepts such as gentrification became such hot topics. For a very long time we have lacked a genuinely open place to discuss housing as a practice in the making, as a space of contestation, and as a politics in its own regard, beyond the calculus of academic citations and the confinements of normative urban studies and housing theory. Crucially, we have lacked a space that scholars, scholar-activists, activists, artists and many more could use to debate ideas, advance knowledge, theory and practices around a radical approach to housing.

For us, that ‘radicality’ lies in how we approach housing as a fundamentally political question, inseparable from implicated, everyday practices of inhabiting space and challenging the forces that make the world unhomely and uninhabitable. It also lies in the journal’s capacity to be put to use by its makers and readers. It is a radicality that has its own political orientation – as clearly expressed in our Manifesto – which pivots around the following points.

First, for us, housing and home are unalienable under any circumstance. There is not much to add to this point; we believe that any form of forced eviction is wrong, and that any form of housing insecurity (as defined by the ones experiencing it) should be contested.

Second, we believe that given the complexity and the potentiality of housing to be absorbed into racial capitalism, thereby catalyzing many forms of exploitation, accumulation, imperialism, raciality, and annihilation – that we need to go beyond the analysis of what problems already exist. Rather, we underline the urgency in contributing to knowledge-sharing for transformation and housing justice. The RHJ wants to create a space that challenges the study of conditions and processes that render housing alienable, combining heterogeneous theoretical standpoints. We therefore welcome transdisciplinarity and transnational approaches to conceptualizing the structural aspects and everyday elements of housing, housing justice, and resistance. We also encourage different methodological approaches, and provide tools for radical epistemology that make use of these methods.

Third, the RHJ promotes a non-exploitative, anti-capitalist, ecologically oriented, antiracist, feminist, decolonial, and horizontal politics in its own structure and functioning. We are autonomous in our making, politics, and financing. Our two Collectives (Editorial and Extended) are horizontally structured and open for new members to join. Internally, these organizational orientations are not always straightforward, and create productive, ethical, and practical tensions that, we hope, result in a more inclusive publication.

The Journal was designed to welcome different kinds of content and elicit conversations across different domains of inquiry and action. The first two sections host substantive original works and are blind peer reviewed (by one academic oriented and one activist-based), while the latter two sections offer for a more “immediate” style (which is reviewed internally by the issues’ Editors). These are:

The long read / Focus on critical analysis and theory-making
For papers focused on theorizing housing resistance and activism worldwide. Papers aim for theoretical innovation and conceptual finesse driven by speculative, case-specific or comparative arguments.

Retrospectives / Focus on specific cases, histories, actions
For papers oriented at reconstructing, in detail, particular histories of movements, organisations and/or actions worldwide. Papers aim for historical rigour and depth.

Conversations / Reflections from the field of action and organisation
Pieces written collectively, to reflect on specific actions and strategies. We welcome reflections and debates on the challenges of particular organising approaches and practices.

Updates / Reviews, provocations, updates on actions
For reviews of books, films, art, and more; as well as updates on current actions.

Launching a new Journal has required more than two years of intensive collective labor and energies, but we are very proud of what we have set up. We aimed high and for the best quality. Of the more than 70 submission that we received for this first issue, we selected 15, which were then thoughtfully peer reviewed, editorially assessed, and accepted or rejected accordingly. A similarly rigorous editorial process was followed for Issue 1.2, ‘Interrogating Rent’, which we will publish in the Autumn.

This massive collective labor is what makes the RHJ; we want to treasure and nurture that collectivity. For this reason, we have designed the Journal with care towards future forms of collective ownership that can last beyond individual editors, and beyond the struggles presented in its pages. We have done so with an attention to the politics of publishing across the boundaries set by the Academy and across geographies. This is a Journal that is designed to host and to foster intellectual and action-oriented debates around radical housing with an attention to geographic specificities and an orientation to experimental and productive comparisons. We want for it to be our sparkling and shining home. And we want this home to be radically open, which we understand in two key ways. First, all content published in the RHJ is open access and will stay so, against the logics of enclosure of much academic publishing, where significant knowledge remains trapped behind paywalls. Second, we want to keep the RHJ open by valuing the work that goes into thinking, researching and writing about and from housing struggles.

Crucially, the RHJ aspires to build a system of self-financing that sustains its independent, radical politics both internally and externally, and offers a small compensation to its writers. Please join our fundraising campaign by donating, if you can, or help by spreading the campaign around.

If you see yourself in our Manifesto, then do get in touch. We await hearing from you and working with you, wherever you are. Our open call for papers for subsequent issues are now live here. Feel free to submit papers and ideas, and please do get in touch about anything else (also about joining our Collective, or becoming a RHJ reviewer) using our contact page, or drop us a line at collective@radicalhousingjournal.org. And, don’t forget to follow us on twitter @Radical_Housing.

We hope that you will enjoy and join this radical endeavour as readers and critical interlocutors, beginning with our Issue 1.1: ‘Post-2008’ as a field of action and inquiry in uneven housing justice struggles. Our second Issue (1.2) ‘Interrogating Rent: structures, struggles and subjectivities’ is well into production and will be published in September 2019.

In Solidarity,

The RHJ Editorial Collective

Erin, Mara, Mel, Meli and Michele

Horizontal solidarities: Screening and debate at the Casalboccone squat (Rome)

Yesterday in Rome at the Casal Boccone Occupato resiste e insiste squat we had a powerful exchange Romania-Italy on racism, evictions and housing justice.

We screened A Inceput Ploaia and then had a debate with the comrades of Blocchi Precari Metropolitani, the Comitato Case Popolari Tufello, occupanti di Colle Salario and Metropoliz Lab.

The Frontul Comun pentru Dreptul la Locuire was represented by myself and Nicoleta (from the Vulturilor 50 community), who chatted with us via messenger, answering questions from the comrades of Rome and invited all to continue to resist and fight for the right to housing and the city. Mady Gavrilescu was there and we expressed our solidarity for her fight #DajeMada

It was a powerful exchange, which I hope it is going to be just the start of a series of collaborations and common fights. These spaces of encounter are possible only via mixing academic and activist work in ways that are not dictated by the scholars involved, but are aligned with the grassroot politics at play in the context of action.

Thanks Mady Gavrilescu for the hospitality and Margherita Grazioli for organizing!