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Open Access Publications from the University of California

At the Margins of Europe: Homeownership, Inclusion, and Protest in Contemporary Madrid

  • Author(s): Gonick, Sophie L.
  • Advisor(s): AlSayyad, Nezar
  • et al.

Examining the material history of contemporary Madrid, this dissertation investigates the spatial process of Europeanization as both a state-led project and an everyday urban experience. Looking particularly to the role of private property within that larger experiment, I argue Madrid’s urban development has long been central to Spain’s quest for strategic inclusion within the broader European landscape. In turn, I demonstrate how the recent moment of financialization and neoliberal planning worked through longer historical questions of modernity that implicated changing concepts of difference. In a moment in which the European project is now in doubt, moreover, I reveal how once marginal groups now articulate new repertoires and imaginaries for a more inclusive Union.

Demonstrating the primacy of homeownership—long utilized as a mechanism that offered admission into Madrid’s imagined whole—I address how both the state and its citizens conceived of European membership as a spatial project of physical expansion and acquisition. Through archival research, I show that private property markets became a tool for both state-led Europeanization and middle class aspirations of economic advancement and consumption. Accordingly, I look to the theoretical margins of this ontological regime, namely, immigrant participation within the housing market. In doing so, I uncover how the state treated their acquisition of private property as a de facto integration policy. Employing ethnographic methods, I then demonstrate how the financialization of that model has precipitated both everyday violence along lines of race, class, and gender, and new forms of resistance and civil disobedience, as experiences of dispossession contribute to new repertoires of activism and solidarity. To conclude, I demonstrate how grassroots movements challenge ecologies of speculative homeownership through new arsenals of political action and inclusive urban politics that insists on mutual cooperation. Such politics imagines an alternative future in which plurality and diversity are not only tolerated, but also enliven the limits of possibility.

By challenging the borders and boundaries of Spain’s boom and bust, this dissertation reveals how political economic crisis and uncertainty provide openings for new articulations of grassroots organizing and political action, against the standard narrative of xenophobia and exclusion. Ultimately, it argues Europe’s everyday citizens are fundamentally transforming their relationship to the state and its systems of rule.

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