Struggles over property in the ‘post-political’ era: Notes on the political from Rome and Dublin

Geographical analyses on protests against austerity politics using the framework of post-politics have proliferated in recent years, mostly building on the work of Jacques Rancière and his conceptualisation of the political and the police order. The paper continues this tradition but seeks to move beyond those analyses reducing the political gesture to a ‘rare’ and ‘heroic’ act. It does so by bridging the work of Rancière with the work of Jean-Luc Nancy, developing two main arguments. The first one concerns the local and situated dimension of the political moment; the second concerns the dialectical relation between the police order and its disruption, while at the same time viewing insurgent acts as part of a chain of perpetual acts that destabilise the police order, which moreover are the inevitable outcome of its excess. These theoretical arguments are developed in relation to the analysis of the trajectory of disruptive politics around vacant property in Dublin and Rome. In both cities, several contentious political initiatives around property emerged as a response to the crisis and austerity politics, but they were unable to translate into bigger movements. To account for this, the paper identifies two main factors: the limited violence of the crisis in terms of evictions and foreclosures, and the instrumental use of ‘legality’ and ‘rules’ by the police order. Nevertheless, we argue, activist engagements with vacant property can be considered as examples of ‘world forming’ that create the possibilities for further disruptive politics.