The economic crisis seen from the everyday

Maria Kaika

University of Manchester

Europe’s nouveau poor and the global affective implications of a ‘local’ debt crisis.

Key words: crisis, Indignados, Occupy, nouveau poor, affective, debt, Greece, right to the city 

The proliferating numbers of a new population of urban poor in the Western world—who I call here nouveau poor—is a phenomenon equally (if not more) significant as the emergence of the Indignados and Occupy movements, and calls for urgent attention from the part of critical urban studies. This phenomenon forces us to re-evaluate the analytical categories within which we study urban poverty (gender, age, ethnicity, marginality, etc.) and prompts us to focus on commonality, rather than difference, when it comes to collectively reclaiming the ‘right to the city’. Focusing on the political, social and affective consequences of the presence of nouveau poor on the streets of Athens, I argue that the shock waves that Greece’s nouveau poor send down Europe’s spine are partly due to the fact that Athens’ new ranks of beggars are not migrants, junkies, alcoholics or homeless; they do not fall in any of the familiar categories of the urban ‘other’ or ‘subaltern’. As they belonged, until very recently, to the mainstream aspiring middle classes, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to ‘other’ them, ignore them or dismiss them politically, or socially. The presence of Europe’s very own ranks of middle class-come-poor begs for a reconceptualisation of the link between urban theory and praxis.

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