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The City of the Missing: Poetic Responses to the Grenfell Fire

Davies, D. ORCID: 0000-0002-3584-5789 (2022). The City of the Missing: Poetic Responses to the Grenfell Fire. Journal of Urban History, 49(3), doi: 10.1177/00961442221127310


This essay is about the representation and recognition of the victims and survivors of the Grenfell fire disaster in poetry written since 14 June 2017. It begins by arguing that the fire was caused not by a lack of knowledge, but a refusal to acknowledge the voices of the community. It shows how this refusal of recognition was both direct and systemic, slow and immediate, situating the fire in the recent and long-term contexts of austerity and the hostile environment, the demonisation of social housing, urbanisation and the rise of slums, and the logics of colonialism and racial capitalism. The essay then turns a series of poetic responses to the fire, read and discussed mostly in the order of their publication. These include poems by Ben Okri, Roger Robinson, and Jay Bernard, spoken word performances by Potent Whisper, and two tracks by Lowkey. Through close and careful readings of this work, the essay identifies a hauntological politics of acknowledgement and memorialisation that refuses social death and galvanises social life.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Grenfell Tower, the Grenfell fire, poetry, racial capitalism, social murder, hauntology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > English, Publishing & Creative Writing
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