Racialization and Racism

Nowhere land: The evicted space of Black tenants’ rights in Montreal

Property relations in 1980s Montreal were a venue of struggle and change. In this period, a well-organized tenants’ movement and the election of progressive governments spawned a series of legal and policy changes that strengthened tenants’ rights in the city. During the same period, however, an emerging police, government and media discourse cast Black communities as criminal ‘ghettos’, and a variety of mechanisms, including new policies meant to protect tenants’ rights, were used to evict criminalized Black tenants. Guided by recent work on property and Black geographies, respectively, this article examines how racial subjects are constituted in struggles over tenants’ rights. The racial limits of tenants’ rights in Montreal, it argues, are traceable to the socio-spatial relations of slavery and the intensifying criminalization of Black life in the 1980s, each of which nullified Black spatial belonging in the city. The tenant, the article concludes, is never just a tenant, but also a racial subject – a subject formed at the edges of blackness. In a terrain forged by slavery and its afterlives, the possibility of expansive tenants’ rights presupposes a right systemically denied in advance for Black people in the Americas: the right to exist here in the first place.

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Volume 40 Issue 2

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