Because evictions pervaded US working-class cityscapes during the Great Depression, newspapers actively covered their developments and aftermaths, trading in eviction as a commodifiable experience that could entertain readers at the expense of pathologizing evictees and naturalizing summary process. Against this eviction reportage, this essay identifies a disconnected coterie of authors and artists who represented evictions and anti-eviction protests in their works, mapping out an urban geography that attends to the sociospatial and historical politics of forced ejection. In the writings of H. T. Tsiang and Ralph Ellison in particular, eviction constitutes a spatial politics of violence and exclusion, revealing the state’s protection of private property and bourgeois class interests over the well-being of its working-class and unemployed residents. Illustrating the sociospatial politics of eviction, these authors exploited and contested popular genres of eviction reportage, which narrated dispossession as a pathology of the poor to legitimate the state’s violent protection of private property. Challenging this pathologization as well as the scapegoating of Communist agitation, this essay contends that these texts account for how the juridical architecture of eviction itself creates the space and social mechanisms for anti-eviction resistance to take place. In so doing, this article positions housing and homeless justice as a politics central to the aesthetic experimentations and legacy of 1930s proletarian modernisms.

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