Anne Pitcher

Faculty / Academic Staff
Intellectual Biography: 

I am interested in “property porn” or rather, the staging and branding of home ownership as a dream that even the poorest of the poor can realize. The transformation of shelter as a good that everyone needs into a commodity with granite countertops and marble fireplaces likely occurred when mortgage securitization turned houses into assets, but the idea is now so widespread that it has assumed the cultural values and norms of the space in which it is being articulated. What is so powerful about the dream trope and its linkage to shelter? My particular focus is on the dreamlike imagery embedded in urban residential development in Angola and the illusive goal of home ownership for most. As a social scientist I look at the social networks that sustain the supply of housing and also drive the demand not just for shelter but also for vacation homes, investment property, and speculation. As a humanist, I’m concerned with the restrictions on freedom that come with urban homelessness and inadequate housing of the poor. Alongside a right to the city should be a recognition of the right to a decent home.

I earned my D.Phil. in Politics at Oxford and now I’m a Professor of African Studies and Political Science at the University of Michigan. Most of my work has examined comparative politics in southern Africa; I have a recent book entitled Party Politics and Economic Reform in Africa’s Democracies (Cambridge, 2012) which explains why ruling parties in South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia diverged considerably in their approaches to private sector development during the 1990s. Intellectually and professionally, I straddle the boundary between the humanities and the social sciences; between qualitative and quantitative approaches; between naturalism or positivism and constructivism. I appreciate the precision brought by a scientific approach to research but recognize that serendipity lies behind the most creative and innovative theories. It’s hard for me to juxtapose the “West” against the “South”. Both constructs fail to capture the fragmentation, the social tensions, the political disruptions and discontinuities that characterize the geographies they reference.

Presentation Title: 
“The phantasmagoria of home ownership in Luanda, Angola”
Raewyn Connell, Southern Theory: The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2007 Gavin Shatkin, “Global Cities of the South: Emerging Perspectives on Growth and Inequality,” Cities 24, 1 (2007). Gavin Shatkin, “Contesting the Indian City: Global Visions and the Politics of the Local,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 38,1 (2014), pp. 1-13 Christopher Harker, “Theorizing the Urban from the ‘South’?” City 15,1 (2011), Lila Leontidou, “Alternatives to Modernism in (Southern) Urban Theory: Exploring In-between Spaces,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 30,2 (1996) pp. 178-195