Dispossessed : How Predatory Bureaucracy Foreclosed on the American Middle Class

3.85 (13 ratings by Goodreads)
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In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, more than 14 million U.S. homeowners filed for foreclosure. Focusing on the hard-hit Sacramento Valley, Noelle Stout uncovers the predacious bureaucracy that organized the largest bank seizure of residential homes in U.S. history. Stout reveals the failure of Wall Street banks' mortgage assistance programs-backed by over $300 billion of federal funds-to deliver on the promise of relief. Unlike the programs of the Great Depression, in which the government took on the toxic mortgage debt of Americans, corporate lenders and loan servicers ultimately denied over 70 percent of homeowner applications. In the voices of bank employees and homeowners, Stout unveils how call center representatives felt about denying appeals and shares the fears of families living on the brink of eviction. Stout discloses the impacts of rising inequality on homeowners-from whites who felt their middle-class life unraveling to communities of color who experienced a more precipitous and dire decline. Trapped in a Kafkaesque maze of mortgage assistance, borrowers began to view debt refusal as a moral response to lenders, as seemingly mundane bureaucratic dramas came to redefine the meaning of debt and dispossession.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 280 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 20mm | 408g
  • Berkerley, United States
  • English
  • 22 b-w figures
  • 0520291786
  • 9780520291782
  • 2,255,331

Back cover copy

"An important book. Noelle Stout documents the scamming and nefarious actions undertaken by the banks and Wall Street, and how the government refused to help its citizens, saving Wall Street instead. A gripping read."--Dale Maharidge, Professor of Journalism, Columbia University, and author of Someplace Like America: Tales from the New Great Depression "Public anthropology at its finest. Stout shows how in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, those losing their homes--Mexican immigrants, African Americans who had saved for their first house, and middle-class folks moving up--struggled to make sense of what was happening to them as their American dream turned into a Kafkaesque nightmare."--Hugh Gusterson, Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, George Washington University "A brilliant work that all Americans urgently need to read. Despite the devastating story the book tells, we can feel hopeful: once these forces of destruction and the means of resisting them are understood through Stout's nuanced and insightful ethnography, perhaps they will never again be repeated."--Emily Martin, author of The Meaning of Money in China and the United States "This should become an instant classic: as a teaching text, a powerful and wholly current read, and a signal of anthropological contribution to thinking about debt and obligation."--Don Brenneis, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz "Dispossessed offers a much-needed and highly readable account of how the foreclosure crisis integral to the 2008 recession played out in everyday life."--Jessica Cattelino, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles
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Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction. Once Sold, Twice Taken: A Life Undone

1. Dream It, Own It: Genealogies of Speculation
and Dispossession in the Valley


2. Put Out: Bank Seizure at the Poverty Line

3. Robbing Peter to Pay Paul: Relocating the Middle Class


4. Can't Work the System: The Troubled Sympathies of Corporate

5. We Shall Not Be Moved: The Shifting Moral
Economies of Debt Refusal


Conclusion. You Can't Go Home Again

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Review quote

"Highly recommended." * CHOICE * "Building on existing research about the Great Recession, [Stout] offers intimate interviews with a dozen families who lost their homes in the Sacramento Valley. . . . Highly recommended." * CHOICE *
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About Noelle Stout

Noelle Stout is Associate Professor of Anthropology at New York University. She is the author of After Love: Queer Intimacy and Erotic Economies in Post-Soviet Cuba and director of the documentary Luchando.
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Rating details

13 ratings
3.85 out of 5 stars
5 31% (4)
4 31% (4)
3 31% (4)
2 8% (1)
1 0% (0)
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