University of Maryland

[CASCI Talk] Rent and Loathing in Beantown: Negotiating the Civic Good Through Short-Term Rental Laws and Romantic Anti-Capitalism

September 25th, 2019 by

October 22nd, 2019


In the ideal city, every resident would have a place to live. Unfortunately, we are far away from this utopia due to the limits on space available to residents. Property ownership serves as a fundamental exclusion criteria as it helps determine which residents get to live in the city and which cannot. My talk focuses on the tension of how cities balance the contradictory needs of propertied and non-propertied residents. I build on the scholarship on the governance of housing property in order to account for how a relatively new monetization, the short-term rental (STR), becomes contested by way of government regulations. STRing is the practice of temporarily renting one’s residential space to a guest through an online platform like Airbnb. Drawing on eighteen interviews and archival research in the Beantown area — the broader Massachusetts area comprised of Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Newton, and Somerville — I trace how STR hosts negotiate the tension between the exclusionary nature of property ownership and the civic good by way of their portrayal of STR practices. I find that hosts tie their use of private property monetization to the civic good while foreclosing a debate about its potential negative effects. Hosts displace the displeasing aspects of property ownership onto an imagined, abstracted category of the investor host — who stands in for investment capital, indifferent corporations, and foreign money. In this negotiation of the civic good, I argue that STR owners replicate what Iyko Day calls “romantic anti-capitalism”, a mode of critiquing capitalism that values the local and concrete uses of property while displacing the downsides of property ownership onto an outside agent.

Speaker Bio

Nina Medvedeva profile photo

Nina Medvedeva is a PhD candidate in Feminist Studies at the University of Minnesota. Her dissertation, Home in the Sharing Economy, examines how Boston, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. residents politically mobilize to navigate Airbnb’s particular monetization of the home through short-term rental laws. Last summer, she interned at the Microsoft New England Research’s Social Media Collective and researched Airbnb hosts’ reaction to the new Boston-area short-term rental laws. And, she’s a University of Maryland: College Park alumna who earned her Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy and Political Science and her Master of Arts in American Studies.

Meeting Location

CASCI Group Activities:
2119 Hornbake Bldg. South Wing
11:00 am – 12:00 noon

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Remote Participation

This CASCI Talk will be live streamed using Jitsi.
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