Shaun Smith – Ideologies and Nature in the Phenomenon of Evictions

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Event Date 22 – 23 May 2012
Royal Holloway University of London
11 Bedford Sq
London WC1E 6DP

The Department of Geography at Royal Holloway University of London presents:

Speculating on Slums

 

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This two day workshop in May 2012 in Bedford Square, London will examine the role played by global financial investments in land markets and globalised networks of capital in slums of developing countries. It questions some of the underlying assumptions through which informal housing in the global South has been understood, gives insights into new emerging forms of marginality, highlights contradictory, complex tensions that emerge for donors, governments, and NGOs in relation to the urban poor. The workshop draws together interdisciplinary intellectual debates, key conceptual, political and policy lessons which will enable a new research agenda for work in informal housing in the global South. Leading academic scholars working on informal housing issues and NGO practitioners will be the main selective participants in the workshop.

Shaun Smith (Royal Holloway University of London) – Ideologies and Nature in the Phenomenon of Evictions

This paper will attempt to problematise prevalent conceptualisations of evictions by considering the importance of ideologies in various contemporary examples including the Beijing Olympics in 2008. By working with the contradiction between fixed and unfixed nature the argument will be made that ideologies operate by forming a field of knowledge between what is determined as nature and what is determined as natural. The question of what exists as natural, or what this paper calls ‘the politics of existence’, is that dogmatic element of ideologies which aims to designate and reduce peoples lives to an essential element (e.g. a ‘squatter’, a ‘hawkers’ or a ‘Marxist’). The importance of ideologies in the course of evictions is often noted by other critical projects, however, is often reduced to a mechanical ’cause’ of the event. This paper will argue that by adopting a politics of existence the question of how to critically approach evictions can be transformed. ‘Beautification’, ‘city greening’ and ‘ecological urbanisation’ are increasingly crucial terms to understand evictions, therefore this paper adopts the Lefebvrian principle that a new (political) science of their operation is needed.

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