Self-precarization and the spatial imaginaries of property guardianship

Mara Ferreri*, Gloria Dawson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Property guardianship, a form of short-term building security through temporary dwelling, has emerged in several European countries over the past 20 years. Despite being characterized by tenure insecurity and frequently substandard conditions, ‘living as a guardian’ has become a composite and polyvalent mode of inhabiting cities, rooted in the production and dissemination of distinctive spatial imaginaries of ‘nomadic’ urban dwelling. In the United Kingdom, where guardianship is relatively novel and marginal, the establishment of several intermediary companies has contributed to the rapid diffusion of the scheme as precarious ‘adventurous’ housing, particularly in metropolitan areas where guardianship schemes largely attract mobile and university-educated individuals. Drawing on debates about the complexities of ‘self-precarization’, this article examines imaginaries of property guardianship and their ambivalent significance in relation to lived processes of precarization. Through the analysis of media representations and in-depth interviews with current and former guardians in London, it explores how guardians mobilize narratives of adaptability, flexibility and nomadism between their resignation to existing housing conditions and a sense of critical and autonomous agency. This article proposes and develops a nuanced qualitative approach to analyse how precarious dwelling through guardianship is reshaping spatial imaginaries of acceptable and desirable urban housing, contributing to significant processes of individual and collective subjectification. At a moment of extensive governmentality through insecurity, it concludes that examining imaginaries and practices of self-precarization offers a critical entry point for understanding and rethinking, theoretically and politically, housing precarity and its geographies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-440
Number of pages16
JournalCultural Geographies
Issue number3
Early online date22 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


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