Capturing Eviction in America: Forced Dislocation and the Iconography of the Housing Crisis

Julia Faisst


Since the subprime mortgage crisis caused the inflated housing bubble to burst in the United States in 2007, increased housing insecurity and the prospect of eviction are no longer experiences associated with the urban poor. The 2007-2008 housing crisis in fact demonstrates how residential homes have transformed from asset to liability for the middle class as well. Subsequently, the downward mobility middle class evictees undergo poses the question of how a supposedly stable concept of the middle class becomes mobilized and shifts its meaning. This essay explores how the increasingly pervasive genre of ‘eviction photography’ deals with such mobilizations in the current class structure. Informed by narrative theory as well as cultural geography, it shows how images of forced dislocation both locate the housing crisis in concrete spaces and chart its affective implications. Theories on spatial inequality and the political imagination of art by Ariella Azoulay, Walter Benn Michaels, and Jacques Rancière, amongst others, provide the framework for my inquiries. I draw on selected photographs that attest to the aftermath of foreclosure as a foil to John Moore’s World Press Photo award-winning series Evicted, which stands out for the distinct attention it pays to the human subjects involved in the process of eviction. In the imaginary nexus between photographer, photographed, and spectator, Moore’s images are read as visual and spatial interventions that construct intimate yet shared knowledge about contemporary social and economic inequalities.


photography; American; housing crisis; eviction; foreclosure; forced dislocation; middle class; inequality; downward mobility

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