“Not a cozy dwelling”: Exploring Aspirational Anxieties and the Politics of Displacement in São Paulo’s Squats

Abstract: In São Paolo’s ancient center, squats provide protective spaces to thousands of residents who cannot or do not want to access the formal and highly gentrified housing market. At the same time, these formerly abandoned buildings are also a site of the political struggle and claim the right to decent communal living. This paper traces the motives and aspirations of different types of squatters, such as activists, internal and international migrants as well as refugees. Through the notion of “aspirational anxieties” it concentrates on the uncomfortable emergence and recognition of power asymmetries inherent in the affective dimensions of solidarian future-making. By showing how dis- and emplacement are experienced by actors with contrasting and eventually irreconcilable biographical experiences, this paper warns against a normative understanding of the notion of displacement.

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Contributors
About Heike Drotbohm

Heike Drotbohm is professor of social and cultural anthropology at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. Her research, conducted in transatlantic social fields (Haiti, Cape Verde), concentrates on the intersection of im/mobility, kinship, and care. More recently, she followed migrant trajectories across urban and cross-border spaces (in Brazil and Central America), and explored configurations of care and control in solidarity and humanitarian settings. Publications have appeared in Ethnography, Citizenship Studies, the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, and several co-editions. She was fellow at the research center "work and the life course in global history" (Humboldt University of Berlin) and at the New School for Social Research in New York City.