Cultures and Cultural Production

“Housing Policies and Habitation Practices within the State of Emergency in the City of Volos (1922-2015)”

Kotionis Zissis, Barkouta Ioanna, Antoniou Antonis

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Summary of the Research Proposal

The basic idea underlying this research is the “spatialisation” of theoretical discourses of “emergency” with reference to the city of Volos. Four specific crisis periods will be examined: the arrival of refugees in 1922, the bombardements of 1940-41-41, the earthquakes during the 50s and finally the current economic and social conditions (from 2010 until today). Choosing as a starting point the notions of housing and habitation in the vertical sense of time within the period of one century, but also in the horizontal sense of space in the city of Volos, tactics and strategies of (housing) subsistence and survival, the city inhabitants (re)describe the city history in an alternative way. From the housing realities to practices of habitation, the inhabitants of Volos remain exposed to precariousness and scarcity, get organised, re-use or destroy spaces, hence giving an emphasis on the multiplicity of needs and wishes.

Looking at the city as a kind of palimpsest, where time periods co-exist through continuities and discontinuities, ruptures and completions in the urban space, traces of the need for housing and habitation are constantly recurring, being inherent of the urban fabric. From 1922 to 1940-41-41 and from the 50s until today, using or re-inventing uses of space as seen through the angle of “urgency” has given prominence to aspects of habitation and habitation within historical conditions defined by “emergency”. A key issue of the proposal is the “historisation” of crisis along the axis of habitation and housing and, at the same time, the “spatialisation” of historic time, so that “hidden” aspects of politics on housing and the experience of habitation may emerge into surface. A joint review and comparative investigation of the impacts of the arrival and settlement of refugees in 1922, of bombardements during the period of 1940-41-41, of earthquakes in the 50s and of the current economic crisis, form an attempt to trace a “differentiated” habitation identity, such as it was formed by housing policies and the experiences of habitation in different historic periods until today.

On this basis, a complex multidisciplinary approach is proposed, making use of the methodologies offered by the fields of history, architecture and geography. Applying oral history and sources will allow us, through verbal (re)descriptions, to examine the experiences of habitation and housing. At the same time, exploring the conditions of the subjects’ memory evolvement will help us understand how representations of social notions of space are shaped, and especially that of habitation. Within this framework, one may seek to associate contemporary theoretical assumptions on “state of exception” with the living environment and housing of refugees, the “cracks” in time and habitation during the bombardements of 1940-41 and the assumption of responsibility for the city’s reconstruction by the army during the decade of 1950s. In other words, specific aspects of habitation and housing during historical “emergency” circumstances will be examined.

This research project was funded by the Research Centre for the Humanities (RCH), with the support of the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation.

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