Affective Politics, Activism and the Commons: From WECH to Grenfell

Abstract

This article focuses on the activism of the Walterton and Elgin Action Group who successfully campaigned against attempts by the UK Conservative government in the 1980’s to sell off their council homes to private tenders. Focusing on their inventive and creative actions, and the composition of the group not usually associated with militancy, the article takes the formation of WECH (Walterton and Elgin Community Housing) as an example of affective politics and the cultivation of a housing commons-through-difference. What was foregrounded and became important were the relations of mutual dependence and care that existed and could be mobilized to stir collective action across categories of race, class, gender, disability and age. These relations existed at the nexus of personal histories including those of migration, poverty, displacement, social exclusion, homelessness, neglect and discrimination. These histories were mobilized within an area that had a strong history of community development and activism, and amongst a diverse group of tenants who had shared, yet different histories of displacement, suffering, and struggle having been forced to live in substandard conditions with little hope for the future. The Homes for Votes scandal and the WEAG campaign hovers at the edges of the Grenfell tower tragedy in the present, making links across shared geographies and histories, particularly of displacement and suffering as well as community activism and politics, reminding us of what was and is possible beyond the devastation and neglect symbolized by the charred remains of the tower

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