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Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space


Debt, Dispossession, Austerity, Emergency Management, Spatiality


In recent years, debt has become a major focus of geographic research as debt relations have become increasingly central to today’s financialized capitalist economy. This paper bridges two aspects of the debt literature: (1) the emergent literature on debt spatiality, which argues that space plays an active role in the creation and maintenance of debt relations, and (2) the broader literature examining processes of debt-driven dispossession (e.g., foreclosure, eviction, austerity, etc.). Recent literature in geography, led by Harker’s work on debt spaces, has argued that debt should not only be understood as a temporal relation (a promise of future labor) but a spatial relation as well. This literature has examined the active role of space in creating debt relations but has been less attentive to the ways in which debt is a key mechanism of dispossessive economies. Analyzing Michigan’s emergency management laws, a system of forced, localized austerity, I chronicle how the social production of space is central to dispossessive debt projects. I conclude by offering a new concept, debtor spaces, to characterize the socio-spatial formations which enable practices of debt-based dispossession.




This is an accepted manuscript of a manuscript first published in Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 54, no. 5 (2022).

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