"Losing Your Home" is an important and long overdue book, which I warmly welcome and recommend to the worldwide readership that it addresses and fully deserves. This book offers us a fresh and compelling look at one of the global and still unheralded enough crisis of our times: the increasing eviction and displacement of large numbers of people – no less than tens of millions every year – who are uprooted from their houses mostly without receiving the support they need for rebuilding their lives from society as a whole. House displacement, which much too often results in homelessness or slum dwelling, is a paradoxical result of many legitimate development projects that need a footprint but nonetheless do not care enough to resettle and re-house the people they displace; it is also a result of the bigger tragedies inflicted by destructive conflicts.
Addressing frontally the problems such forced evictions cause, the book takes an even broader approach by integrating the risks of homelessness and a broader set of impoverishment risks that are embedded in forced displacement, unaccompanied by proper relocation and reconstruction.
While the loss of housing has been highlighted in other publications as well, the exceptional merit of UN-Habitat and of the book's main author, Jean du Plessis, is, in my view, their book's primary methodological focus. Based on an extensive documentation, the author synthesizes and evaluates a vast spectrum of methods and approaches to studying the deep impacts of house-loss on the lives of ordinary people. Social researchers worldwide stand to substantially benefit from using this book as an arsenal of tools for their own investigations. They can draw from this analytical repository what they need to enhance their own work, and also to compare results across meridians and cultures. The book's author reached far and deep to get information directly from scholars themselves, in addition to data from the available literature.
Remarkable also is how the book highlights the need to tactically match method to context and to particular purpose. While it provides tools for unpacking the drama of house loss, it also harvests and highlights methods used in successful re-housing projects by some displacement agents themselves, when such methods and agents deserve recognition and replication.
In sum, this is a publication which builds well on the current state of the art, and helps push the frontiers of research, analysis and knowledge further on. Every reader stands to benefit from studying it.
Michael M. Cernea,
Brookings Institution NR Senior Fellow, Washington DC and
Research Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, GWU
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