chapter  27
12 Pages

Guilty subjects

New geographies of blame in the aftermath of the US housing market collapse
ByJeff Maskovsky

This chapter explores how guilt and innocence are being re-territorialized across the United States metropolitan landscape. I plot the moral and geographical coordinates through which long-standing blame ideologies that once freighted blackness, dependency, and depravity with the city on the one hand and self-sufficiency, whiteness, and virtue with the suburbs on the other have been reworked. After providing a brief overview of recent scholarship on financialization and cities, I explore the politics of homeownership in the United States from the immediate postwar period to the present, emphasizing how, over time, the notion of home became disarticulated from the ideas of prosperity, upward mobility, and civic engagement, and how the form of homeownership backed by the 30-year mortgage became less inevitable and, from a variety of political perspectives, less desirable. I then discuss the politics of virtue and blame as they have played out in conjunction with these changes, emphasizing the representation of strategic defaulters and financially distressed defaulters, postcrisis financial subjects whose guilt or innocence helps to suture together the postcrisis political geography. The final part of the chapter highlights the role of finance and real estate in exacerbating divisions in the US class- and race-stratified body politic and points to signs of new political possibilities on the horizon that use different temporal and political schemes to reapportion blame and responsibility for housing precarity and financial risk taking.