Unsettling the City: Urban Land and the Politics of Property

Unsettling the City: Urban Land and the Politics of Property

Unsettling the City: Urban Land and the Politics of Property

Unsettling the City: Urban Land and the Politics of Property

Synopsis

Short and accessible, this book interweaves a discussion of the geography of property in one global city, Vancouver, with a more general analysis of property, politics, and the city.

Excerpt

I grew up in a small village (in the Royal County of Berkshire), deep in the English countryside a few miles from the border with Hampshire (now rebranded Jane Austen Country). With its half-timbered cottages, rustic pubs, and rolling countryside, the surrounding landscape appears the epitome of domestication and tranquillity. The coppices, bridle paths, and fields that I roamed over as a child are bit-players in a firmly English story of order, intimacy, and settlement. These are, after all, the "Home Counties." But, as any rural historian will tell you, this apparently "old" landscape was in fact recently forged through complex and often violent political struggles and legal remakings. Enclosures in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries swept away many traditional commoners' rights in the name of improvement and monetarization. This was fiercely contested: Edward Thompson's classic treatise on the conflict over traditional property rights in the eighteenth century describes events that were partly fought out in the woods, fields, and villages around my childhood home. Mythologies of rural quiescence and deferential community are belied by hierarchies of power and privilege. Much of the land in the village continues to be owned by a modern-day squire, whose wealth derives from merchant banking in London. Given its proximity to London and the booming M4 corridor, the area has now been caught up in the English real estate bubble. Quaint barns and farmhouses have been gussied up and sold to those in pursuit of the rural idyll. This rural gentrification has meant that many of my former schoolmates, some of them children of tenant farmers, are unable to live in the place of their birth.

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