Berner Humangeographisches Kolloquium

17. Oktober 2023

Prof. Dr. Hanna Hilbrandt: Disinvestment, Decay, Displacement: Rethinking (Ir)Responsibility for Housing Property

In the course of a decade-long cycle of speculative debt, disinvestment, and building decay, in 2017 the city of Dortmund (Germany) evacuated the housing complex Hannibal II. 753 tenants lost their homes without notice and have been unable to return to date. The harms the residents experienced raise questions about responsibilities for these wrongs and stress the need for a wider discussion about relations of responsibility and irresponsibility that shape processes of housing: How is such irresponsibility legally, practically, and socially organized? Building on a recent project that discusses the nexus of housing and responsibility in the Hannibal case (Hilbrandt & Dimitrakou, 2022; Dimitrakou & Hilbrandt 2022), among others (Hilbrandt, Dimitrakou & Pattaroni, 2023), this lecture delves deeper into the legal and philosophical foundations of responsibility for housing. I posit that a critical engagement with notions of responsibility can provide a domain for theoretical critique, empirical investigation, and legal political struggle against housing injustice when the concept’s foundational premises are radically revised. In particular, I aim to put property’s social obligation norm into sharper focus to discuss how this conception of responsibility would have to be rethought to actually hold property owners to account.