Accepted Paper:

Unsettled homes: interruptible futures and violable space among working-class households in England  


Ryan Davey (London School of Economics)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the anticipatory condition of the possible future loss of the home, showing how this possibility interacted with working-class tenants’ aspirations for home-ownership. It argues that class in Britain incorporates differences in subjects’ exposure to possible dispossession.

Paper long abstract:

Adding to studies of actual incidents of default and dispossession (Deville 2015, Stout 2016, Dudley 2000), this paper examines the widespread condition of anticipating the loss of home. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among tenants living on a “deprived” housing estate in the English city of Plymouth, it explores their aspirations for home-ownership, the interruptibility of these and other tenurial futures, and the violability of their domestic space. It considers how such homes came to be exposed to uncertainty about whether they would be subject to intrusion or dispossession, showing that, for working-class tenants in the UK, the liberalisation of housing and property markets has been accompanied by an isomorphic florescence of the potential for dispossessive legal violence. In these conditions, the impulse for permanence of dwelling could but coincide with aspirations for home-ownership, yet I show that these tenants vacillated between such aspirations, on the one hand, and, on the other, defending against more immediate threats to their tenure, such as possible eviction. I show that residents strived to imbue their homes with a sense of bright futurity, in particular through the unswervably progressive futures of home entertainment technology, whose sights and sounds offered relief from an affect of anticipatory uncanniness with which tenants encountered the materiality of their homes. The paper finally argues that social class in contemporary Britain not only involves differentials of property ownership, but also incorporates differences in subjects’ exposure to the possibility of dispossession.

Panel P035
Home loss: house-ownership and credit in the austerity regime