The Ethics of Space: Homelessness and Squatting in Urban England

Stephanie Grohmann

Research output: Book/ReportBook

Abstract / Description of output

‘The Ethics of Space’ is an ethnography of what happens when homeless people organize to squat abandoned properties. Set against the backdrop of economic crisis, austerity and a disintegrating British state, Grohmann describes a flourishing squatting community created by homeless people in the English city of Bristol, and the eventual outlawing of this community by the British state. Chronicled by a squatter who also happens to be an anthropologist, the book challenges claims made by politicians and academics who want to divide squatters into the ‘deserving homeless’ and ‘undeserving activists’. Contrary to this view, the squatters in this book are homeless people who, instead of relying on a punitive, individualising welfare regime, choose to challenge property and the state.

In articulating this political practice, Grohmann explores the intersection between spatial existence, subjectivity, and ethics. Across the Western world, full membership of society is established through entitlements to space, formalized in the institutions of property and citizenship. Those without such entitlements thus become less than fully human, as they struggle to find a place where they are symbolically and physically allowed to exist. The act of appropriating space in the absence of formal rights is therefore more than merely a way of putting a roof over one’s head. In a wider context of dissolving social rights, squatter’s acts of transgression serve to reaffirm their own, and each other’s, right to take up space.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationChicago
PublisherHAU Books, University of Chicago Press
Number of pages290
ISBN (Print)9781912808281
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


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