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Marianne Maeckelbergh receives ERC Consolidator grant for project ‘Property and Democratic Citizenship’

Marianne Maeckelbergh has received a Consolidator grant from the European Research Council for a project on the impact of property regimes on experiences of citizenship. The project will be carried out in five democratic countries: Greece, The Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

‘Property rights are a foundational element of democracy’

Building on previous research into citizen-driven democratic innovation, in this ERC project, Maeckelbergh will explore how property regimes impact experiences of citizenship across five democratic countries. “Property rights are a foundational element of democracy, but the right to private property exists in tension with values of equality and a right to shelter”, Maeckelbergh explains.

Experiences of citizenship 

Anthropologist Marianne Maeckelbergh, associate professor in  Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at Leiden University, was living in the United States doing research on a Marie Curie Fellowship where she was confronted with the eviction crisis currently ongoing in California. “I realized the gravity of the situation and its impact on how people see themselves as citizens, how they experience ownership and whether they feel (or don’t feel) connected with a community”.

Urgent research: millions of evictions every year 

Research on property is especially urgent given the recent normalisation of economic models that have resulted in millions of evictions every year. Through an ethnographic study of eviction, Maeckelbergh aims to provide a comparative study of how property is thought about, marketed, regulated and experienced and how these experiences shape democratic citizenship. 

In-depth ethnographic research in five democratic countries 

Maeckelbergh’s project will be based on in-depth ethnographic research among citizen in Greece, The Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. She selected these countries as they represent a diverse set of property regimes, and they are each experiencing a housing crisis that has created new inequalities of race, gender, age and income and led to social unrest. By focusing on moments of conflict resulting from the use, sale or purchase of specific properties, Maeckelbergh will critically examine the role of property within democracy.

The Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at Leiden University has obtained, very unique, three ERC’s grants in a row. In addition to Marianne Maeckelbergh’s ERC project, Erik Bähre is working on a ERC project called ‘Moralising Misfortune: A comparative anthropology of commercial insurance’, while Cristina Grasseni’s ERC project ‘Food citizens? Collective food procurement in European cities: solidarity and diversity, skills and scale’ has just started.