Resisting renovictions

tenants organizing against housing companies’ renewal practices in Sweden

Keywords: displacement, renovictions, resistance, tenants’ mobilization, Sweden

While governing practices, as articulated in policies and other documents intended to shape tenants’ behavior, have been given considerable attention in research, less attention has been given to the self-regulation of tenants in practice or how these governance practices are challenged and resisted from below. The ambition of our work is to study governing practices deployed by housing companies in two Swedish cities to achieve tenants’ compliance with extensive housing renewal plans, and to conceptualize this means of exerting power as practices through which tenants are governed, silenced and surveilled, and their collective interests divided. Building on several years of ethnographic work among communities of tenants experiencing extensive renovation of their homes and, in particular, qualitative interviews and focus-group interviews with tenants, this study analyzes how governing practices are exercised by housing companies and contested by tenants. Our contribution is twofold: First, we propose the broadening of the notion of repertoires of contention alongside collectively organized contention to include covert and individual forms of resistance. We understand these forms as mutually shaping, and distinguish between eight forms of resistance repertoires common among tenants facing renovictions (indirect evictions caused by extensive housing renewal and skyrocketing rents) in Sweden: building local identities, mixing formal and informal forms of organization, delaying the process, detournement, politics of disengagement, demanding accountability through visibility, reversing knowledge hierarchies, and reversed shaming. Second, we aim to add to the still understudied field of tenants’ mobilizations in the Swedish context.

Dominika V. Polanska is an associate professor of sociology interested in urban social movements, extra-parliamentary activism, squatting, tenants’ mobilizations, informal organization, and non-traditional forms of civic engagement. She is affiliated with Södertörn University, and Uppsala University and the Institute for Housing and Urban Research. More information: www.dominikavpolanska.se

Åse Richard is PhD student in Human Geography at the Institute for Housing and Urban Research at Uppsala University. Her research is based in intersectional methodology, and concerns gender perspectives on displacement, resistance and housing development in Sweden.

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