The struggle for problematising housing (in Italy)

Reflections from Naples, Turin and beyond

Simone Tulumello

Published in Issue 5.1 // The Long Read

Keywords: Housing politics, housing regimes, comparative housing, contentious politics, Southern Europe


During the last 15 years, amid the global impacts of the economic crisis, austerity politics, and increasing centrality of real estate and construction for capitalism, housing has taken central stage in public and political debates globally. In Italy, the trajectory of housing politicisation has been quite peculiar. Despite a longstanding tradition of housing conflict and a complex geography of new mobilisations, housing has remained at the margins of national discussions. Seen through the lens of Foucauldian problematisation analysis, housing has not been acknowledged as a ‘problem’ in Italy. This article engages with the Italian peculiarity through a comparative study of housing problematisation—operationalised through the dimensions of framing, coalitions and scale. I compare two cities where analogous challenges intersect with very different housing regimes and political contexts: in Turin, the capacity of short-term housing policies to address pressing problems is mirrored by a lack of engagement by institutional and politicised actors; in Naples, in a housing regime defined by informal solutions, the relations among the local authorities and social movements have oscillated among dialogue, conflict, institutionalisation and pacification. By putting these cases in conversation through a generative, relational and multi-scalar lens, I discuss housing problematisation in a country, Italy, characterised by deep regional asymmetries, regionally-specific housing regimes and a complex geography of housing conflict. By reconsidering the national case vis-à-vis broader dynamics, in conclusion, I also provide some takeaways for a reflection on the conditions, preconditions and efforts for scaling up the housing struggle.

Simone Tulumello is an assistant research professor in geography at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon. At the border between human geography, critical urban studies and political economy, he is interested in the global processes of urbanisation through the lenses of housing policy and politics, urban violence, and urban imaginaries.

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