Reclaiming Placemaking for an Alternative Politics of Legitimacy and Community in Homelessness
International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society
This study is about the struggle for legitimacy in place among a group of people often assumed to have neither. It examines the roll of informal placemaking and community building in struggles for settlement among people experiencing homelessness. It does so through ethnographic observation, photo-documentation, and participatory action research at three sites in Oakland, California, on which unhoused people (and some housed members of the surrounding community) have demonstrated bold forms of grassroots placemaking on public land. The first site, which came to be known as Housing and Dignity Village, was a small intentionally organized community of unhoused women and families that existed for 41 politically charged days in a low-income residential neighborhood before being cleared by authorities in 2018. The second, a highly visible piece of desirable city-owned land, has been occupied by unhoused people to varying degrees since 2016 while being considered for various housing development proposals. The third is the Wood Street Encampment, Oakland’s largest encampment and one of its longest standing, which has survived numerous partial evictions and a web of jurisdictional authority to become home to an extensive and innovative informal community-building effort. Despite their differences, each offers a powerful case of place-based bottom-up community organizing among unhoused people, in which placemaking becomes part of a subtle politics of visibility, being, and legitimacy. The study argues that these instances and others not only demonstrate a different sort of placemaking, but demand that we reconsider and reclaim the concept itself.
Community, Homelessness, Informal settlement, Informality, Placemaking, Unhoused
Urban and Regional Planning
Gordon C.C. Douglas. "Reclaiming Placemaking for an Alternative Politics of Legitimacy and Community in Homelessness" International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society (2023): 35-56. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10767-022-09426-x