Squatters and the right to the city : waiting for eviction in Buenos Aires, Argentina
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Poor Latin American migrants arriving to Buenos Aires are usually able to find work and access urban resources, but struggle to secure stable housing inside the city. Faced with this dilemma, they often scramble to find somewhere to live among the city’s informal housing options. Some move into casas tomadas, crowded, run-down boarding houses and informal hotels where multiple families live together. Inside, residents must constantly negotiate their presence and their access to shared spaces and amenities, all the while waiting to be evicted. In Argentina, the eviction process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years as the case makes its way through the courts. Despite the tenuous conditions, residents benefit from these spaces, which are often centrally located, close to jobs, schools and public transportation. Using a multi-scale, ethnographic approach, this dissertation explores how residents of casas tomadas cope with housing instability and struggle to stay in the city amidst the threat of eviction. Focus is on residents’ routine practices inside casas tomadas, their alliances with housing organizations, and their reliance on the city government housing subsidy. My findings show that structural and temporal conditions at these different scales limit and destabilize residents and advocates’ struggle for housing and the right to the city. Building upon literature on the right to the city, critical urban studies and political ecology, this dissertation seeks to broaden and deepen our understanding of the routine and everyday ways the poor experience urban instability and marginalization. In this research housing and home are understood as a primary resource from which people can access other important urban resources. As such, this dissertation argues that house and home are a fundamental and central element in any struggle for the right to the city.