Illegal Housing in Medellín: Autoconstruction and the Materiality of Hope

Adam Moore, Flávio Eiró, Martijn Koster

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    Drawing on ethnographic research in ‘El Oasis’, a highly precarious self-built settlement in Medellín, Colombia, this article examines the illegal practice of autoconstruction as a material expression of hope. It focuses on the multilayered, symbolic meaning of self-built housing, as it represents the pursuit of dignity, permanence and agency – as opposed to poverty, uncertainty and lack of agency – and an active and material form of hoping for a better future in the city. The state plays an ambiguous role in residents’ perspectives, who conceive of it, simultaneously, as a threat to and a guarantor of their future in the city. This ambiguity becomes materialised in the physical form of residents’ self-built housing, as residents either embrace, or refrain from, making improvements to their houses in response to shifting perceptions about the state’s intentions regarding the future of the settlement.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalLatin American Politics and Society
    Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

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