Eyes wide shut

Il/legality and solidarity in housing struggles in (post)socialist Sofia and Caracas

in Focaal
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  • 1 University of Liverpool m.ivancheva@liverpool.ac.uk
  • 2 Sofia University stefankrastev@gmail.com
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Abstract

This article presents the results of a collaborative ethnographic inquiry in contemporary Sofia and Caracas. Combining historical research and ethnography, we compare the ways in which a former and a current left-wing regime treat urban squatting. In both cities, squatters tend to be poor families escaping homelessness. In Sofia, “squatters”—usually of Roma origin—inhabit unregulated spaces deemed illegal after 1989. In Caracas, homeless families have been officially encouraged to squat but not declared legal occupants. A historical comparison shows both socialist governments turn a blind eye to extralegal housing practices. Benign, informal housing arrangements function to display solidarity with marginalized groups as a form of popular legitimacy. Yet, without formalized state protection, such arrangements produced a “surplus” population, vulnerable vis-à-vis global processes of capitalist reorganization.

Contributor Notes

Mariya Ivancheva is Lecturer in Higher Education Studies at the University of Liverpool. Her doctoral dissertation explored, ethnographically, the development of the Bolivarian University of Venezuela. Since then, she has worked as a postdoctoral research fellow on various projects, including exploring housing in (post)socialist Sofia and Caracas, the casualization of labor in postcrisis academia, and the impact of digital technologies and marketization processes on inequalities in universities in South Africa and the United Kingdom. She has published widely on the present and the legacy of socialist regimes, and the role of universities in processes of social change. Email: m.ivancheva@liverpool.ac.uk

Stefan Krastev is a Doctoral Candidate in Sociology at the Sofia University who holds a BA in Ethnology and an MA of Sociology and Social Anthropology. He is interested in the Roma, ethnic minorities, urban marginality, racism, and visual media. His doctoral research is focused on aspects of the process of financialization of social reproduction among Roma and other precarious populations in Bulgaria: the proliferation of management techniques such as “calculation of risk” and “personal ratings,” related to the development of “fast credits” industry, and people's attempts at subverting them. Email: stefankrastev@gmail.com

Focaal

Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology

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