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    A piece of land is a piece of gold: gentrification, value, and material life

    Vansintjan, Aaron Rik (2021) A piece of land is a piece of gold: gentrification, value, and material life. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Abstract

    The Vietnamese saying, tấc đất tấc vàng, ‘a piece of land is a piece of gold’, used to mean that if you have a piece of land, it would always provide you with enough food to eat. Today, it means that if you own land in the city, you will be rich. These two meanings—land as fertile and abundant, land as a source of profit—point to the contradiction of value in an age of hyper-accelerated real estate speculation. Communities that fight for green parks or community gardens, making their neighbourhood greener and safer, may get displaced as their neighbourhood increases in value—value that they helped to create. What drives this paradox, where people’s everyday activities may lead to real estate profits, which in turn erodes the community of long-term residents? To answer this question, this study explores how people respond to gentrification in the day-to-day—what is here called ‘material life.’ Drawing on research in the cities of Hanoi and Montreal, narrated through people’s foodways—the material and social use of food—I show how poor people facing gentrification turn to material life to survive and resist the process. Gentrification, even if it does not lead to direct displacement, may lead to ‘life displacement’—which cuts across social-ecological relations. I trace how urban elites take advantage of this material life, drawing from community wealth to brand the neighbourhood. I find that the two-faced nature of material life under gentrification—its fecundity and its potential for return on investment—is both a site of extraction and new forms of struggle. Drawing on subaltern urbanism, political ecology, urban geography, and value theory, I argue that gentrification can be understood as a value conflict, where different forms of wealth are struggled over and ultimately sequestered into capitalist value.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2021 18:01
    Last Modified: 12 Nov 2021 07:15
    URI: https://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/46685

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