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Lecture | Research Seminar

CA-OS Research Seminar | The discourse of displacement in Amsterdam New West. Toward an ethnography of populism

Monday 27 March 2017
Pieter de la Court Building
Wassenaarseweg 52

A discourse of displacement

Public housing has been a central pillar of the state's governmental functions in Fordist-Keynesian welfare states. The Netherlands offers a salient example of the importance of urban planning in binding people to the nation and in delivering on the promise of social mobility and equality. As Andrea Muehlebach and Nitzan Shoshan have recently argued: 'Housing […] appeared as an index of a peculiar affective relationship that citizens cultivated with the nation-state that often took on an elaborate and extensive caregiver role' (2012: 329).

Housing has also been "a critical sector for the unfolding of neoliberalism" (Dunn 2013, 183). The neoliberal transformation of public housing policy in the Netherlands indexes a much wider transformation of the state and people's affective relationship with and investment in it.  

Mepschen's work offers an ethnographic account of Amsterdam resident's resilience in the face of the neoliberal transformation of urban space - a transformation that marks a shift from the relative security of the public housing arrangement to the insecurity of the market place.

He shows how plans for the demolition and regeneration of the neighborhood opened up a space for the articulation of a 'discourse of displacement' within which certain residents - construed as 'autochthonous' and racialized as white - shape a sense of self in antagonistic relations with 'Others': elites and sometimes (post)migrants.

The talk will shed light on the histories of symbolic and material displacement that feed popular resentment and alienation, ground populist articulation, and thus call 'the people' into being as a lived reality. Mepschen focuses especially on the ways in which a lack of democratic voice, experienced by residents, structures everyday perspectives on the world. 

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