The power of owning: Home, citizenship and the regressive politics of becoming a “possessing individual” — ASN Events

The power of owning: Home, citizenship and the regressive politics of becoming a “possessing individual” (16129)

Libby Porter 1
  1. Monash University, Clayton, VIC, Australia

Owning, possession and the assumptions of “possessive individualism” (MacPherson 1962) underpin the logics of home and neighbourhood in the contemporary city. When people possess (in terms of the property rights they hold) their place, they are immediately recognizable in the modern city as full citizens. Yet there are countless situations where people express and enact property rights unrecognizable to the ownership logic of property rights: Indigenous people whose lands have been dispossessed through colonial and neocolonial practices; residents of informal settlements who hold nor legally existing title to their land; and those whom the state simply refuses to recognize as legitimate ‘owners’ of their homes and neighbourhoods. This paper begins a theoretical explanation of how we might understand how the very different logics of non-ownership property rights require us to rethink notions of home, citizenship, belonging and the right to the city. Using vignettes from Melbourne, Glasgow, Accra and Rio de Janeiro the paper exposes how contemporary urban development trends are producing one of the fundamental urban phenomena of our time: displacement (see Butler and Athanasiou 2013; Sassen 2014). It asks how we might envision a more radical concept of property rights, one that eschews the limits of ownership for a more expansive recognition of the dispossessed and their right to the city.


Butler, J. and Athanasiou, A. (2013) Dispossession: The performative in the political, Cambridge: Polity Press.
MacPherson, C.B. (1962) The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, Hobbes to Locke, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Sassen, S. (2014) Expulsions: Brutality and complexity in the global economy, Harvard University Press.