Towards a political economy of violence:

Property and revanchism in West Thessaloniki

Nikos Vrantsis

Published in Issue 4.1 // Retrospectives

Keywords: Greek property regime, vigilant violence, urban marginality, precarization, rent gap


Encompassing data from a year-long field-based work in the neighborhood of Ksiladika, Thessaloniki in Northern Greece, I divulge a campaign of vigilant evictions of migrant squatters by local property owners. To contextualize this vigilant violence historically, I point to the distinct trajectory of the Greek property regime, carved by the minimal involvement of the state in welfare provision, the role of the family as a welfare substitute and a valorized norm hybridizing familism with a laissez-faire ethos linked to the possession of (residential) assets. Geographically, I marry Wacquant’s conceptualization of advanced urban marginality with rent gap theory to unearth the specificity of Ksiladika, a space at once relegated yet loaded with the promise of revaluation. I suggest that this violence is linked with what local impoverished landholders perceive as an opened rent gap that is what drives their pursuit to reorganize space according to the dictates of the markets as a way to secure, valorize and restore their property with its attendant meanings vis-a-vis the social reproduction squeeze brought about the economic restructuring of the Greek economy. Advancing Wacquant’s conceptualization of advanced urban marginality as an effect of the neoliberal state crafting on a global scale I suggest (i) that the schematization of a neoliberal Janus-like centaur state that performs liberalism for the privileged and punitive paternalism for those at the social bottom needs due to the expanding zone of precarity is no longer reserved for the marginalized and (ii) that neoliberal governing is attained not merely by the penal apparatus of the state, but via a diversified repertoire of state responses, including the governing through the precarized subjects who internalize the postulates of the ideology of self-reliance mediated through possession of (residential) assets in times when the resource is scarce.

Nikos Vrantsis is a PhD candidate in Human Geography affiliated with the Institute of Housing and Urban Research, Uppsala University. Through his field based research in Thessaloniki — what he calls an ‘ethnography of the near’ — he tries to point to the socio-spatial marginalization and precarization occuring on the backdrop of the transformations of the Greek property and labor regime. He has been working as a freelance journalist and researcher on housing exclusion and marginalization.

Download PDF

See article reference