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Narratives of Moral Order in Michigan's Foreclosure Crisis

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Abstract

In the United States foreclosure crisis since 2007, millions of homeowners have strived but failed to hold onto homeownership. This crisis threatens to unsettle the myth of the American dream and deep-seated cultural beliefs about the self as a moral, political, and financial subject. On the whole, mainstream narratives blame homeowners for their predicaments or at least hold them responsible for the consequences of the housing bust. This article examines how homeowners, housing professionals, and activists in Michigan confront narratives of blame and flawed foreclosure prevention programs. Michigan has been pivotal in the formation of beliefs about the American dream, evidenced in the blue-collar middle class, as well as being emblematic of deindustrialization and the foreclosure crisis. Confronting a multi-layered crisis, homeowners, housing professionals, and activists in Michigan produce narratives of suicide, walking away, or strategically defaulting on the mortgage. These narratives present moral critiques of lenders, enact and challenge tropes of blame, and imagine ways to recapture (albeit constrained) agency.

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