(Im)mobilities, power and claims to belong on the waterways in London
Laura Roberts (Queen Mary University of London)
Paper short abstract:
The practice and governance of boat-dwellers in London allow them to become 'out-of-the-way people' (Scott, J. 2009, viv). To what extent is access to (im)mobilities of water as a refuge mediated by discourses and practices of middle-class whiteness (Frankenberg 1993; Wemyss, 2009)?
Paper long abstract:
The UK housing crisis has priced many people out of buying, particularly in London (Propertywire, 2018). An alternative way to own a home is to buy a boat and live on the waterways. Boats average £50,000- considerably less than the average £481,556 for a London property (gov.uk, 2017). The Canal and River Trust (CRT) manage much of the UK's waterways and offer a low cost 'Continuous Cruiser' (CC'er) licence requiring a boat to move to a new 'place' every 14 days (legislation.gov.uk, 1995; section 17(3)(c)(ii)). This itinerancy affords CCer's a 'watery region of refuge' making them 'out-of-the-way people', ungraspable to the state (Scott, J. 2009, viv). 82% of London boaters who participated in a CRT survey were attracted to boat-life by the waterway environment (tranquility, boats, wildlife etc.) (CRT, 2016b). This survey also details that 77% of London CC'ers are 'White English or British' (CRT, 2016a). To what extent do CC'ers' 'white middle-class social and moral values' (Tyler, 2003: 492) reproduce ideas of the freedoms of the countryside as a 'white landscape' (Agyeman and Spooner, 1997). Informed by Tyler's (2003) and Byrne's (2007) studies of the articulation of middle-classness with whiteness, I look at the freedoms the mobilities of water affords but also who can make claims to this space. I draw on Benson and Jackson's (2012) study of middle-class processes of place-making and place maintenance to explore the intersection of 'moral ownership' on the waterways in London.
Dwelling on water: mobilities, immobilities and metaphors