Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Cities
Secondary Theme: Materiality
Anthropologists have a long history of turning to the house to understand social reproduction and continuity. Houses have the unique quality of being the physical and discursive building blocks of society. As an enduring form, the house is a picture of adaptation and resilience. However, houses are also sites of contestation and rupture. In this panel, we ask what happens when a site of social reproduction and continuity also becomes a site of precarity and discontinuity. We focus on the adaptation, resilience, and resistance of people who are building, decorating, tearing down, and using houses, as well as the challenges they face when houses lose their stability.
People craft their houses through “bottom up” everyday practices such as construction, remodeling, demolition, relocation, neighborhood activism, and community action. Houses worldwide are also constructed in a “top down” fashion by development plans, national policy, and global trends. Moreover, the scale of such top down policies makes resistance increasingly necessary yet all the more difficult. Around the globe, people have also found their housing finance decisions deeply altered by the entry of international banks into local lending systems. Foreclosures, sudden rent hikes, and corporate-led redevelopment projects all deeply challenge human resilience.
We start at the house and follow it upward in scale, to understand resistance and resilience in neighborhoods, cities, national policies, and global financial regimes.
At the neighborhood/village/local level:
What materials, techniques, and discourses do people use to make and remake houses in local contexts? How is community made and remade in the process?
How do the historical layers in an area (ruins, patina, memories, overlapping generational perspectives) interact with, impact, and/or push against contemporary projects?
How does the materiality of houses and house-building affect the formation of local subjects and their relationships with the authorities and vice versa?
At the city level:
What techniques do residents use to navigate city policies to improve their residential lives?
What do residents do when they come up against city policies that threaten their ability to maintain a house?
How do people navigate exclusionary housing policies?
At the national level:
How do states use housing policies to construct national identity?
How do people build ideas about the nation into the housing landscape?
How have people used houses to oppose (or reify) colonial regimes and colonial histories?
At the global level:
How have people responded when national and international housing finance policies disrupt their daily domestic lives?