Ohnmacht* paralyses. It leads to passivity and discouragement – to the point of resignation. Crisis conditions intensify both social and individual feelings and experiences of powerlessness, and through this, it becomes clear that Ohnmacht has a systemic character. The series of discussions “Facing Ohnmacht” invites a critical and emancipatory confrontation with powerlessness as a feeling, an experience, and a social symptom. The series focuses on counter-narratives, pointing to strategies and approaches that lead out of powerlessness and into empowerment.
*The German word Ohnmacht refers to being ohne Macht (without power): a state in which power is absent or lacking. To be ohnmächtig also means to have fallen unconscious.
Housing and Ohnmacht
Discussion event and workshop are in German.
Processes of gentrification, housing speculation, financialisation, land shortage, and the upwards spiral of rental and energy costs are all consequences of neoliberal politics in urban planning and housing. Today, the rent is no longer affordable for many. Housing contracts are terminated in the name of profitability, meaning that a rising number of renters are being displaced from their own homes and neighbourhoods, including through forced evictions. Such processes are systemic, and they reveal forms of Ohnmacht on a structural and an individual level.
Being forced to leave one’s private living space and social context can lead to being burdened with emotions such as existential fear, loss of control, shame, despair, and political paralysis – which often culminate in isolation and resignation. These forms of Ohnmacht are structurally conditioned: displacement processes tend to isolate those individuals affected, making it particularly difficult for them to become politically active. However, many examples of activist (self-)organisation and collective resistance demonstrate how the vicious cycle of isolation and political disempowerment can be broken. Insisting on housing as a human right means collectively countering experiences of Ohnmacht with solidarity and hope.
The discussion event will be accompanied by the Human Geographers Dr. Sarah Klosterkamp and Luisa Gehriger as well as "Zwangsräumungen vehrinern Wien".
02.06.2023: Patriarchy and Ohnmacht
13.10.2023: Housing and Ohnmacht
14.10.2023: Workshop: Evictions. Power & powerlessness of the involved actors
16.11.2023: Climate and Ohnmacht
Sara T. Huber und Rivka Saltiel
Graphic by: Haras Ananas
Dr. Sarah Klosterkamp is a journalist and human geographer who lives in Cologne, Germany. Her work focuses on the power of institutional stakeholders in the commercialisation of housing. Her current project, “Geographies of social inequality as demonstrated by forced evictions” (“Geographien sozialer Ungleichheit am Beispiel von Zwangsräumungen”) analyses the institutional practice of local courts in Germany, which make decisions on a daily basis on precarious forms of housing and evictions in large cities – often to the advantage of large, profit-oriented and financialised real estate companies.
Luisa Gehriger is an activist and human geographer who lives in Zurich. As a researcher and activist, she investigates processes of displacement in larger Swiss cities, focusing on mass rental contract terminations, and aiming to understand and conceptualise the many different types of displacement processes from the perspective of the renters affected.