After Grenfell: accumulation, debris, and forming failure in London

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The Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017 is popularly associated with a litany of failures: political, structural, moral, material. But while the official inquiry has sought to frame the fire as a discrete event, for local residents it is inextricable from accumulated histories of injustice and inequality. Years on, the fire still reverberates, its afterlife constellating with new narratives and politics. Drawing on literature on ruination and remains, as well as methodological theory, this essay examines how the form of failure is never pre-known but must be made to appear. Through diverse encounters with the tower's debris – material and conceptual – failure is made to matter, acting both backwards and forwards in time. Reflecting on remainders and erasures at the tower site, as well as debates about the parameters of the inquiry, I explore how failure is continually recomposed, becoming both an object of knowledge and an instrument for its formation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2023


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