Safety in numbers: Squatting as social and financial security

October 23rd 2014

Squatter settlements around the world are not generally considered to bestow financial or social security upon the people who live in them. Rather, they tend to be portrayed in two ways.

First, they are often described as places that trap people in poverty. The rationale is that lack of access to capital – economic, social, cultural – make the barriers to socioeconomic mobility so high as to be virtually insurmountable without outside intervention. People are, in this view, stuck in a “cycle” or “culture” of poverty.

Second, squatter settlements are overwhelmingly viewed as places of precariousness. Residents live a hand-to-mouth existence, employment opportunities are tenuous, and the future is uncertain.

Moreover, given residents’ illegal occupation of the land on which they live, the threat of eviction hangs over these communities, discouraging people from improving their homes and thereby precluding their chances of (literally) building up their investments. Squatter settlements are subject to change, but again, not in a desirable way.

Read the rest of this article on the Charisma Network

30% off Materializing Poverty

September 26th 2014

Rollup, rollup! AltaMira have just sent me discount flyers for my book. If you were considering buying it but were holding off because of the price, now's the time to make your move. There's a USA flyer and an international flyer for people living everywhere else.

Both flyers give a 30% discount and are valid for both the hardback and ebook.

Please do feel free to let me know what you think of the book. You never know, I might want to write another one someday, and feedback will help me make the next one better! Besides, as an author it's always nice to be reminded that you're in conversation with other people, even when it's not direct. Happy reading!

The moral economies of material things

May 24th 2014

The concept of moral economy is a natural fit to analyses of material culture. In this working paper, I show how the concept has applications to all three research projects that I have carried out on the island of Hispaniola since I began conducting fieldwork there in 2004.

In Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (2004-2012), I researched the relationship between materiality and poverty in a squatter settlement. There, materiality (particularly the built environment and consumption) are integral to the self-definition of residents people as poor, is implicated in their stigmatization by outsiders, and also provides a way to create a positive community life and transform the future.

The curation of the self in the age of the Internet

May 16th 2014

In his famous 1936 essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Walter Benjamin describes how art was historically used for ritual purposes. Because the ritual value of art was tied up with its uniqueness, it was unthinkable to reproduce a work of art.

In some respects, this phenomenon continues to exist today, particularly in religious contexts. Every year, up to a million pilgrims walk to the town of Fátima in Portugal to witness a parade in which the statue of Our Lady of Fátima is displayed.

The development of technologies of mechanical reproduction means that it would technically be possible to produce a close copy of this statue, and of course, with photography, millions of images of the Lady circulate around the world freely.