Digital Nomads in Siliconising Cluj: Material and Allegorical Double Dispossession

McElroy, Erin
Urban Studies

This paper studies the arrival of digital nomads in Cluj, Romania. I focus upon double dispossession, in which ‘digital nomads’ allegorise technocapitalist fantasies by appropriating Roma identity on one hand, and in which Roma are evicted to make way for the arrival of Western digital nomads and tech firms on the other. While Roma are materially dispossessed as Cluj siliconises, they are doubly dispossessed by the conjuration of the deracinated digital nomad/Gypsy. As I suggest, this figure discursively drags with it onto-epistemological residues of 19th-century Orientalism – a literary genre that emerged within the heart of Western European empires. The recoding of the nomad today, I argue, indexes the imperiality of technocapitalism, or techno-imperialism. Double dispossession, as a phenomenon, illuminates that prior histories bolster, and are consumed by, globalising techno-imperialism. Postcolonial and postsocialist studies offer frameworks for understanding this update, as well as the accumulative and multifaceted dispossession that siliconisation inheres. I thus argue for a connected rather than comparative approach in understanding double dispossession, one focused upon connections across time, space and genre. A connected approach remains rooted in community organising and housing justice struggles.