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Chronic urban trauma: The slow violence of housing dispossession

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rachel Pain



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Sage, 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


This paper sets the idea of slow violence into dialogue with trauma, to understand the practice and legitimization of the repeated damage done to certain places through state violence. Slow violence (Nixon 2011) describes the ‘attritional lethality’ of many contemporary effects of globalization. While originating in environmental humanities, it has clear relevance for urban studies. After assessing accounts of the post-traumatic city, the paper draws insights from feminist psychiatry and postcolonial analysis to develop the concept of chronic urban trauma, as a psychological effect of violence involving an ongoing relational dynamic. Reporting from a three-year participatory action research project on the managed decline and disposal of social housing in a former coalmining village in North East England, the paper discusses the temporal and place-based effects of slow violence. It argues that chronic urban trauma becomes hard-wired in place, enabling retraumatisation while also remaining open to efforts to heal and rebuild.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pain R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Urban Studies

Year: 2019

Volume: 56

Issue: 2

Pages: 385-400

Print publication date: 01/02/2019

Online publication date: 15/11/2018

Acceptance date: 31/07/2018

Date deposited: 03/08/2018

ISSN (print): 0042-0980

ISSN (electronic): 1360-063X

Publisher: Sage


DOI: 10.1177/0042098018795796


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