Urban Informality: An International Workshop

Linking informal working practices and the governance of everyday life

Thursday 27 June | HU2.37, Hugh Aston Building, De Montfort University, Leicester

This workshop will seek to trace the possible relationships between dynamics of informality that cut across  governance, work and ordinary life. It will explore relations between longstanding community practices of survival beyond (but without excluding) the formal institutions of the state, the persistence and transformation of informal economies and their impact on work, class formation and collective organisation, and the modes of local governance that continually (re)emerge to manage and respond to these features of urban informality. The aim is to understand possible configurations of hybrid practices in informal modes of work and life and the informal practices and institutions that emerge in interactions between ordinary citizens, local authorities and grassroots forms of entrepreneurship, exploring the various means by which individuals and communities navigate these complex formations of urban informality. Please register a place by 21 June, see details below.

Contributions will address these themes by asking:

(1) How do individuals and communities organise their daily lives to survive (or to thrive) in these settings?
(2) To what extent do they construct alternative modes of social, political, and economic organisation to fill gaps left by the withdrawal and/or non-existence of formal institutions?
(3) How far are these intentionally, or not, supported by state institutions and actors?
(4) What connections can be made between these distinctive areas of urban informality at work, in everyday life and in the associated forms by which these are governed?
(5) To what extent does urban informality, developed through the intersections of work, community and life, create identities that help overcome economic, political or social crises?

 

Programme

 Welcome and introduction (9:30-10:15am)

Adam Fishwick and Valeria Guarneros-Meza (DMU)

 Session 1: Living through the boundaries of urban informality (10:15am-12:00pm)

Colin Marx (UCL): ‘Getting between informal working practices and the governance of everyday life’

Jacob Nielsen (Liverpool): ‘Navigating formalisation: migrant hostel dwellers and the banking system’

Begoña Aramayona (Autonomous University of Madrid) ‘Let’s kick out the trash: (In)formal securitisation and Morality by ‘civilised’ residents in a working-class area of Madrid’

Lunch

 Session 2: Urban informality and politics beyond waste (1:00-2:45pm)

Maurizio Atzeni (CEIL, Argentina): ‘Local politics and workers’ organisational practices in the waste collection and recycle chain in Argentina and Chile’

Precious Akponah (Leicester): ‘The social life of rubbish: an ethnography in Lagos, Nigeria’

Louise Guibrunet (UNAM, Mexico): ‘Is there a place for informal workers in the urban sustainability project?’

Coffee break

Session 3: Rule-making and breaking under urban informality (3:00pm-4:45pm)

Ismael Blanco (UAB)*, Vivien Lowndes (Birmingham) and Yunailis Salazar(UAB)*: ‘What is the relationship between formal rules and informal practices within participatory governance, and how has this been impacted by austerity? A case study of Barcelona, 2008-19’

Raphael Bischof (DMU): ‘Secure tenure in a world heritage site: alternatives for housing and protection of landscape in central Salvador, Brazil’

Theodor Born (QMUL): ‘Blurring state prosaics: precarity, bureaucracy, and urban informalities among Latin American migrants in London’

Closing (4:45-5:00pm)

Registration is now open, send your interest in attending by 21 June 2019 to: adam.fishwick@dmu.ac.uk

Only a limited number of participants will be able to register for the full-day workshop.

The workshop is hosted by De Montfort University, Leicester. Co-sponsored by the Centre for Urban Research on Austerity (CURA), People Organisation and Work Institute (POWI) and Local Governance Research Centre (LGRC).

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Concrete Peace: Building Security in Colombia

Austin Zeiderman, LSE

CURA/ PPP seminar

Date and time: 16th May 2019, 4-6pm

Venue: Hugh Aston Building, Room HU2.06, DeMontfort University

Abstract

Public and scholarly debates in Colombia frequently gloss the work required to achieve peace as la construcción del posconflicto, or “the construction of the post-conflict.” These debates usually surround the question of how to build the legal and bureaucratic institutions necessary for transcending a half-century of violence and ensuring a stable and lasting transition. Less attention is being given, however, to the work of building post-conflict Colombia in a concrete, physical sense. Focusing on the nationwide process of development aimed at laying the material foundations of a new society, this article examines the political potency attributed to the built environment at this critical conjuncture. Taking inspiration from a felicitous phrase coined by the Ministry of Transport’s Twitter account, #PazEnConcreto, it highlights the real-and-imaginary work that goes into building a “concrete peace” through the construction of things like roads, airports, and bridges. How exactly can peace be built out of substances like concrete? By examining two infrastructure projects endowed with the power to bring about peace and prosperity, the first objective is to shed light on the model of security and development according to which Colombia’s future is being imagined, designed, and built. The second objective is consider what these cases suggests about the political agency of the material world. Fine-grained analysis of both the political imagination and the lived experience of peacebuilding reveals the relationship between infrastructure and peace, and the capacity of the former to generate the latter, to be thoroughly contingent. Building infrastructure may produce the conditions for peace, it may reactivate latent dynamics of conflict, or it may do nothing at all.

 

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Power and Capacity in Urban Climate Governance

Pete Eckersley, Nottingham Trent University

LGRC/ CURA seminar

Date and time: 8 May 2019, 3-5pm,

Venue: Hugh Aston Building, HU3.96, DeMontfort University

Abstract

This LGRC/CURA seminar, which draws on the findings of a monograph published in 2018, introduces a new framework to help understand how different systems of government shape policymaking arrangements at the municipal level. By applying the framework to climate governance in three sectors (climate change strategy, planning and each council’s own corporate activities), it will show how low levels of resource interdependence between central and local government in England, exemplified by austerity funding cuts, mean that Newcastle Council has to rely heavily on other horizontal actors to achieve its climate objectives. In contrast, Gelsenkirchen Council receives substantial support from higher tiers of government, which gives it greater control over policymaking within the locality.

Ultimately, therefore, it highlights how ‘vertical’ intergovernmental relationships influence ‘horizontal’ interactions between municipalities and other local actors, and ultimately shape policy objectives and outcomes at the local level. It also reveals how urban policymaking arrangements in both Germany and England are evolving, as municipal governments seek to increase their capacity to address challenging policy problems whilst facing resource constraints.

Dr Peter Eckersley is a Senior Research Fellow at Nottingham Trent University with interests in public policy, multi-level governance, sustainability, austerity and public accountability. Prior to working at Nottingham Trent, he held postdoctoral research posts at Newcastle University, the University of York and the University of Sheffield, and before entering academia he spent ten years as a policy and management adviser at the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accountancy. His monograph, Power and Capacity in Urban Climate Governance, came out in 2018 and he has also published in a range of political science, public administration, geography, management and accounting journals.

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CURA Events Spring/Summer 2019

CURA is pleased the confirm a lively programme of events in May, June and July, as follows:

Date & Time
Event details
8 May
3-5pm, HU3.96
P Eckersley, Nottingham Trent University
LGRC/CURA seminar
16 May
4-6pm HU2.06
PPP/CURA seminar
29 May
2-4pm
HU3.96
M Geddes, Warwick University
CURA seminar
5 June
2-4pm
HU3.95
K Milburn, University of Leicester
On Public Commons Partnerships and a new commons sense
CURA seminar
12-13 June
19 June
24 June
4-5.30pm
HU2.41
M Atzeni Centro de Estudios e Investigaciones Laborales, CONICET
Local politics and workers’ organisational practices in the waste collection and recycle chain in Argentina and Chile
POWI/LGRC/CURA seminar
26 June
2-4pm
HU3.95
J Blamire, University of Exeter
The Political Geographies of Brexit in Leicester: An Ethnographic Analysis
CURA seminar
27 June
1-4 July
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Revolutionary and reactionary urbanisms: La Paz, El Alto and Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Mike Geddes, University of Warwick

Date and time: Wednesday 29 May 2019, 2.00-4.00pm

Venue: Hugh Aston Building, Room HU3.96, DeMontfort University

Abstract

Urban identities in Bolivia have historically reflected, but also significantly shaped, the country’s complex and conflicted history.

La Paz, a culturally primarily indigenous city situated in a great bowl-like valley high in the Andean region of Bolivia, was founded by the Spanish conquistadors and was historically a site of colonialist domination. In the late 20th and early 21st century, La Paz was the locus of struggle between conservative governments and oppositional forces. But it took a new urbanism to tip the balance towards the opposition and the eventual accession to government of the MAS government led by Evo Morales. This was El Alto, a new city on the lip of the bowl in which La Paz lies, populated by large scale peasant migration from the surrounding Andes. From El Alto, massive demonstrations poured down into La Paz, and were instrumental in forcing the defeat of the neoliberal regime in a revolutionary moment installing the first indigenous/socialist president and government of Bolivia.

The stability of the Morales government remained threatened however by the presence in the lowland east of the country of opposition forces based in large scale agriculture and centred on the city of Santa Cruz. The largest city in the country, culturally Spanish and the focus of economic and industrial dynamism in contrast to the poverty of the Andean region, Santa Cruz epitomised the continuing strength of the forces of reaction in Bolivia.

The paper will explore the contribution of these contrasting urbanisms to ongoing processes of change.

 

Professor Mike Geddes

 

Background

My academic background is in history and geography (BA Southampton) and urban and regional studies (PhD Sussex).  From 1989 to 2008 I was Senior Research Fellow, Reader and Professorial Fellow in the Local Government Centre, Warwick Business School.  My research spanned a range of issues in local politics and public policy, with particular interests in theories of the state and cross-national comparative analysis of patterns of local governance under neoliberalism.

 

Current research

My interest in cross-national comparative analysis led to my current research focus on aspects of contemporary politics and policy in Latin America, especially those countries with more progressive political regimes.  Specific research topics include radical initiatives in local politics and governance; political and policy programmes which claim to challenge the hegemony of neoliberalism; and projects to ‘refound’ the neo-colonialist and neoliberal state.  I am particularly interested in contemporary politics and policy in Bolivia.

 

Selected publications

Geddes M N (2019  Forthcoming)  Co-editor.  Latin American Marxisms  Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Geddes M N (2019 forthcoming)  Megaprojects:  Capital, states and civil society in Latin America. In Latin American Marxisms  Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Geddes M N (2016) What happens when community organising moves into government?  Recent experience in Latin America, in Shaw M and Mayo M (Eds) Class, Inequality and Community Development, Bristol: Policy Press.

Geddes M N (2014) The old is dying but the new is struggling to be born:  Hegemonic contestation in Bolivia.  Critical Policy Studies.8, 2, 165-182.

Geddes M N (2014) Neoliberalism and local governance: radical developments in Latin America.  Urban Studies.  Online 7 January, DOI: 10.1177/0042098013516811.

Geddes M N and Sullivan H (2011) Localities, leadership and neoliberalisation: Conflicting discourses , competing practices.  Critical Policy Studies, Vol 5 No 4, 391-493.

Geddes M N (2011) Neoliberalism and local governance: Global contrasts and research priorities.  Policy and Politics, 39, 3, 439 – 447.

Guarneros-Meza V and Geddes M (Eds) (2010) Symposium on local governance and participation under neoliberalism.  International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 34, 1, 115-173.

Geddes M N (2010) Building and contesting neoliberalism at the local level: Reflections on the symposium and on recent experience on Bolivia.  International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 34, 1, 163-173.

Geddes M N (2008) Marxist theories of urban politics, in Davies J and Imbroscio D (Eds) Theories of urban politics. London: Sage.

Fuller C and Geddes M N  (2008) Local governance under neoliberalism: Local state restructuring and scalar transformation Antipode 40, 2, 252-282.

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Conversing with Goliath: Participation, mobilisation and repression

Dr Valeria Guarneros-Meza of CURA reports from an ongoing investigation into environmental conflict in Mexico. Outputs from the collaborative research “Conversing with Goliath” have recently been reported in Mexican media, see details below.

 

Despite the normative framework promoting consultation and participation of communities in the implementation of extractive megaprojects, violent conflicts have increased in Mexico since the introduction of the 2013-14 legal reforms of mineral, hydrocarbon and alternative energy projects.

In finding answers to this paradox, the questions that drive this research are: What strategies have been used by the different actors to manage the above mentioned conflicts? How have the different sub-national contexts of government capacity impacted on the strategies followed? What have been the main obstacles and opportunities for implementing participatory institutions? How have informal and illegal practices intersect in these processes? What have been the main results in the economic, environmental protection and rights (human, political, social) spheres?

In the first two years, the project has delivered a comprehensive newspaper review (Jan 2006-Jan2019) of all environmental conflicts published in the Mexican media. An analysis of the results was widely disseminated in Mexican media outlets on 27 February 2019. To read a summary and consult the cartography of over 800 conflicts visit here (in Spanish).

Other outputs from the project include a juridical analysis of all the laws related to the extractive industry in Mexico and the problems of coordination and coherence of such legal framework, available online (in Spanish).  For a brief English summary of the initial findings of three in-depth case studies (Sonora, Tabasco and Oaxaca) of extractive industries and their impact on communities, visit here (pdf).

This project is sponsored by the British Academy-Newton Advanced Fellowship Grant (Ref. AF160219). The lead investigators are: Dr. Gisela Zaremberg (FLACSO-Mexico) and Dr. Valeria Guarenros-Meza (De Montfort University)

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Municipalism 2019: An International Exchange

Registrations are still open  for the 2nd conference on Municipalism, to be held at De Montfort University (DMU), Leicester, 4-5 April 2019. Registrations will close on Monday 1st April 2019, at 17:00 (GMT).

Abstract

In the last decade, austerity has had a significant impact on the local sphere. Budget squeezes, public services cuts and institutional restructuring came along with growing social needs, and local governments have struggled to keep providing the goods and services needed to stay afloat. However, we have also seen how the local sphere can also be an ideal lab for democratic experimentation and social innovation. Spanish, and particularly Catalan cities with Barcelona at the forefront, have been examples of municipal experimentation over the past few years under the idea of the New Municipalism. However, what is New Municipalism? Is New Municipalism an effective answer to austerity? How is New Municipalism delivered?

The Centre of Urban Research on Austerity (CURA) at De Montfort University, Leicester, in collaboration with the University of Girona and the Betiko Foundation, is holding a two-day conference to discuss all these issues on 4th and 5th April 2019. The conference is organised in the form of an international exchange between academics and practitioners. The conference builds on CURA’s  “Municipalism in the 21st century” conference held in June 2018.

Municipalism 2019: an International Exchange programme includes sessions to discuss the concept and definition of New Municipalism, and roundtables where experiences and reflections on how to deliver Municipalism are shared, creating an environment in which cities can learn from one another.

Conference programme


4th April

9:00 am to 9:30 am

Hugh Aston Building Atrium

Registration and Reception
9:30 am to 11:00 am

Queens Building 1.10

Municipalism 2019: The State of the Debate

Prof Jonathan Davies (DMU-CURA)

Dr Ismael Blanco (UAB-IGOP)

11:00 am to 11:20 am Coffee Break
11:20 am to 1:00 pm

Queens Building 1.10

SEMINAR: What is the new municipalism? Theoretical and Practical Approaches

Keynote speaker: Dr Angel Calle (Córdoba University)

Discussants: Prof. Steven Griggs (DMU-LGRC)

1:00 pm to 2:00 pm Lunch Break
2:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Hugh Aston Building 3.04

ROUND TABLE: Building counter-hegemony through the new muncipalism

Speakers: Dr Mercè Cortina-Oriol (DMU-CURA), Joan Cuevas (Bofill Foundation – Sabadell City Council), Quim Arrufat (DESC – UB), Dr Bertie Russell (University of Sheffield),

Moderator: Dr Ben Whitham (DMU-CURA)

5th April

9:00 am to 11:00 am

Clephan Building 3.03

PRACTITIONER ROUND TABLE 1: Delivering New Municipalism: Towards Economic and Social Equality

Keynote Speakers: Pilar Castillejo (Ripollet City Council), Agnès Rotger (Badalona City Council), Cllr Asima Shaikh (Islington Council), Neil McInroy (CLES)

Moderator: Anaïs Varo (UdG)

11:00 am to 11:30 am Break
11:30 am to 1:30 pm

Clephan Building 3.01

PRACTITIONER ROUND TABLE 2: Delivering New Municipalism:

Re-building Local Democracy

Keynote Speakers: Jose Téllez (Badalona City Council), Ivan Miró (Cooperativist movement Barcelona; Fanny Malinen (Research for Action), Andrew Ross (Unite Community)

Moderator: tbc

1:30 pm to 2:15 pm Lunch
2:15 pm to 3:00 pm

Clephan Building 3.03

Mapping the New Municipalism: Introducing Atlas del Cambio

Dr Ricard Vilaregut (UdG-CURA) and Dr Ángel Calle (University of Córdoba).

3:00 pm to 3:15:00 pm Break
3:15 pm to 5:15 pm

Clephan Building 3.03

PRACTITIONER ROUND TABLE 3: Scaling Municipalism: Beyond and above the City

Keynote Speakers: Carles Escolà (Cerdanyola City Mayor), Dolors Sabater (Badalona City Mayor 2015-2018), Cllr Emine Ibrahim (Deputy Leader – London Borough of Haringey), Matthew Brown (Leader – Preston City Council)

Moderator: Dr Adam Fishwick (DMU-CURA)

5:15   pm to 5:30 pm

Clephan Building 3.03

CLOSING REFLECTIONS AND NEXT STEPS

Prof. Jonathan Davies (DMU-CURA)


 

 

Please follow the CURA blog for confirmation of further speakers and other announcements.

The conference is free of charge, and limited space are available. Please book your place online. Registrations will close on Monday 1st April 2019, at 17:00 (GMT).

 

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DMU Doctoral College PhD Scholarships 2019-20

The Centre for Urban Research on Austerity (CURA) invites outstanding prospective PhD students to apply for a De Montfort University (DMU) PhD Scholarship. We welcome applications from students capable of developing innovative, interdisciplinary and internationally relevant research in any field related to cities, urban living and austerity. We further encourage applicants interested in collaborative projects across research centres.

Applicants interested in working with CURA should, in the first instance, submit a research proposal of up to 750 words, outlining the proposed project and how it fits with DMU and CURA. This should include:

– an overview and research questions,

– an explanation of the intellectual positioning of the project,

– the proposed research methodology and methods,

– link to one or more research areas of urban living, lifelong well-being, creativity in the digital age and social value and/or one or more of the 17 United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals

The proposal should be submitted, with a CV, to the Institute Head of Research Students, Dr Adam Fishwick (adam.fishwick@dmu.ac.uk), to identify support and supervision for the project from the Centre.

Once approved by a potential supervisor, the student must submit final scholarship applications to pgrscholarships@dmu.ac.uk by Tuesday 26 March 2019. More details on how to submit applications and what to include in the final submission are available here: https://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/BQL657/de-montfort-university-phd-scholarships.

 

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CURA research seminars launched for 2019

CURA research seminars for Winter/Spring 2019 have been launched, with two CURA members, Dr Jenni Cauvain (@jenniviitanen) and Dr Adam Fishwick (@Adam_Fishwick) with Dr Heather Connolly  (@DrHMConnolly) taking the upcoming slots on February 20th and March 13th respectively. Jenni will be sharing the results of her latest interdisciplinary research into income inequality and segregation in UK cities. Adam and Heather will discuss their new book on austerity and working class resistance, see below for more details.

For enquiries, or to book a place, please contact jenni.cauvain@dmu.ac.uk.

=======================================================

Income inequality and segregation in UK cities – towards a new research agenda

Dr Jenni Cauvain

Wednesday 20 February 2019, 2.00-4.00pm

Hugh Aston Building, Room 3.96, DeMontfort University

Abstract:

Income inequality and income-based segregation are linked with critical urban studies and practical policy endeavours to build sustainable communities and cities. In the UK, the lack of detailed data on household incomes has previously hindered such efforts. This seminar discusses why income inequality and segregation matter for urban sustainability, and outlines the results of a detailed investigation into household incomes at Lower Super Output Area (LSOA) in the UK for the first time. The empirical analysis uses established measures of segregation; Dissimilarity Index, Gini coefficient and Interaction Index. The focus is on a case study of the city of Nottingham and its wider metropolitan area, but comparative data is provided for UK core cities and selected comparators including Derby, Leicester, Southampton, Cambridge and Winchester. The conclusions draw on a critical perspective on household income statistics and what they reveal about the  hegemonic ideology concerning “problems” in cities being associated with and arising from low income households, rather than from inequality.

The research is an output from the project “Sustaining Urban Habitats – an interdisciplinary perspective” (University of Nottingham) funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

========================================================

Austerity and Working-Class Resistance: Survival, Disruption and Creation in Hard Times

Dr Adam Fishwick  and Dr Heather Connolly

Wednesday 13 March 2019, 2.30-4.30pm

Hugh Aston Building, Room 3.96, DeMontfort University

Abstract:

The working classes today are facing a new set of crises around increasing austerity, authoritarianism, exploitation, and surveillance. But in many places, and in many ways, they are resisting. From new forms of workplace organisation, migrant workers challenging their exploitation, struggles against digitalised work, and through alternative forms of grassroots mobilisation, working-class resistance is emerging in new and often unexpected spaces.

Through a range of cases in Europe and from around the world, this book brings radical voices from sociology, political economy, labour relations, and media studies to offer an understanding of the potential of working-class struggles in and against these ‘hard times’. This engaging volume is an attempt to understand how new, dynamic sites of resistance in and outside the workplace are central to the different ways in which workers survive, disrupt, and create new ways of living.

The perfect guide for students and academics looking for a critical and comprehensive collection dealing with contemporary and global cases of working-class resistance.

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Deadly housing crisis enrages the people of Marseille

In today’s blog post, Leon Reichle reports and reflects on the recent collapse of residential houses in central Marseille, contextualizing it as an ugly face of urban redevelopment policies and arguing for the close attention that should be payed to the emergence of a movement of city dwellers determined to fight for housing justice.

In the city that hosts Europe’s largest urban redevelopment project (since 1995), the housing conditions of the poor have resulted in a deadly crisis. On the 5th of November Taher, Simona, Fabien, Niasse, Julien, Ouloume, Sherife and Marie have lost their lives under two crumbling buildings in the heart of Marseille. The rage about their deaths and the following mass evacuations gave birth to a movement full of interesting coalitions.

Economically, Marseille has never really recovered from the deindustrialisation and decolonisation, which the shift towards tourism economy cannot make up for. With an unemployment rate that is almost 50% higher than the national average, it is the poorest city of France, with over a quarter of the people living in poverty and many more very close to it. With its somewhat contradictory urban development, the European Cultural Capital of 2013 is also the only city in France, where the city centre has not been (fully) gentrified. At the time Marseille hosts Europe’s largest urban redevelopment project Euromediterranée since 1995, which wants to attract enterprises and create an “intelligent, connected and durable town” and is in line with the touristification of the city. How very durable this city has become under the rule of its republican mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin, who has been in office for 23 years, is shown by the current housing crisis. Gaudin, who has earlier allowed himself statements in favour of the “replacing of foreign populations”, is now attacked for the policies that have left large parts of the city to decay, especially those housing the poor and several generations of migrants, by a growing counter movement.

Noailles, known for its markets and Maghreb shops and restaurants is a historic migrant and working-class district marked by the dilapidation of its houses. However recently its central market has been temporarily displaced in favour of an urban renewal program coordinated by a local society for urban renovation and a luxury hotel is under construction. In the little streets that still host informal markets, the police presence has visibly increased in the last years. Parallel to the ambitious renewal projects, the residential houses have continuously deteriorated up to a point where the state of the houses has become life-threatening.

On November 5th, two of the run down houses in Rue d’Aubagne, number 63 and 65 literally reached the breaking point. One of them, number 63, was abandoned, as it had been declared unsafe already in 2012, when the owners of flats were forced to sell to the city. “It is the same in many parts of the city, they just shut off the electricity at some points and board the houses up”, says Martha, a young teacher that used to squat in Noaille. The other building that collapsed, number 65, was still inhabited, even though residents had repeatedly reported the unsettling conditions and some of them had already left their flats, because the doors did not close anymore. A report issued in 2015 considers 40,000 buildings unsafe in Marseille, out of which only 111 have been evacuated. “It’s crazy because you see the cracks in the wall but you never think that the houses will actually collapse”, utters Martha in disbelief.

Since the collapse of the houses, over 1800 people have been evacuated and many of them are enraged.

A woman in a protest tells the news reporter “Before I didn’t protest in Marseille, because I thought, well it probably serves nothing, but now, there is a thing of – we don’t have a choice, in fact, we don’t have a choice anymore! There are people who died! My friends got evacuated! There are people who just die in their homes!” This marks an interesting turning point in Marseilles housing policies – as they are now being contested by many who have not made their voices heard up to this point. Those who have been evacuated after the crashes have been placed in hotels all over the city, partly far from their jobs and their children’s school and complain about bad conditions and a lack of information and respect, like an angry woman confirms “We are not given any news, and we are spoken to, as if we were unwanted… I have to remind them that we are not in this hotel for holidays!” Together with the friends and families of the victims, with local activists and a broad mix of Marseille’s residents they form a protest movement that has repeatedly brought thousands of people to the streets.

The Collective of the 5th of November, Noailles en colère (Noailles in anger) started organizing after the catastrophe, provides support for those evacuated and took part in the organization of demonstrations, which have been a platform for a variety of voices. Last Saturday, on the 1st of December, the protesters reached a number of 12000 people and had to face heavy police violence. Not only was the demonstration joined by members of La France Insoumise, amongst them the Eurosceptic Mélenchon; sans-papiers who protested their evictions, but also by unionists from the CGT and the Gilets-Jaunes, who had a demonstration earlier on the same day. In support of the housing protest, they uttered their solidarity: “We stand next to those that protest these injustices, to support them with our expertise”.

The deadly housing crisis in Marseille stirs horrible memories of Glendfield Tower and is not seen as an accident by many. While millions are being spent on a highly contested redevelopment program in a neighbouring district, La Plaine, no money has been spent for the safety of Noailles residents. “In La Plaine they just built a 2 meter high concrete wall around the construction site so people couldn’t protest it anymore. And at the same time there is no money for housing??” asks Charlotte, a resident.

Much of the anger in the demonstrations turns towards Gaudin, who is definitely not a very likeable face of the cities policies. At the same time, Marseille is no exception in terms of urban renewal along class and race lines, where those who profit from the makeovers are mostly defined by their economic power. A systematic process of strategic neglect up to a point where reinvestment is profitable can be observed in countless gentrifying cities. Yet the case of Marseille is extreme, because the decay is so extensive, dangerous and deadly. This is shocking not only to those immediately concerned, but to many inhabitants of Marseille. The current uproar bears the potential of growing dissent with the ways in which urban restructuring takes place. Smaller protests against the refurbishment of La Plaine are now amplified by angry masses. Whether this movement can resist the intimidation and repression, whether it is patient and determined enough to keep making itself heard, which coalitions it is ready to form and how it is reacted to, remains to be seen. In order to reach any change of direction in urban policy, it is crucial that the housing injustices are continuously made visible, scandalized and contested, as they are far from over. In Noailles, auctions are currently taking place, where the dilapidated houses are being cautiously visited, inspected by and sold to buyers who are rarely planning on inhabiting themselves. “The shittier the better”, confides one visitor of an auction, who plans to resell for the double price, to an undercover journalist.

The death of Taher, Simona, Fabien, Niasse, Julien, Ouloume, Sherife and Marie is not a tragedy caused by the rain, as the city hall likes to put it, it is part of a violent form of restructuring, that devaluates the lives of poor people and eventually displaces them from the city centre. “They have been trying to gentrify Marseille since 20 years now”, says Martha. The housing situation in Marseille is clearly at a very interesting turning point. Whether the evacuated will be able to return to the city centre, in whose interest the money promised by the state will be spent, stays subject to scrutiny.

Leon Reichle is a PhD scholar at CURA with a background in Sociology, who has just started a PhD project on tenants’ interpretations of displacement. As a friend and frequent visitor of the city of Marseille Leon is passionate about developments in the city.

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