Squatting and Urban Commons

Wednesday 9 May 2018, by Miguel Angel Martinez

All the versions of this article: [English]

Is squatting a significant experience for promoting urban commons? We assume that a squatted Social Centre, squatted houses and squatting activists were the main actors or participated in an activist network that defended, produced or managed a specific urban common (e.g. local public services, goods, infrastructures, spaces and institutions... but its definition is open to discussion). This is a collective research process within SqEK (Squatting Europe Kollective) which deals with the politics of self-management (in other words - autonomy and self-organisation) as it is practised in squats inside out. We want to interrogate the achievements and limitations of self-management as it has been practiced by squatters and to gather interesting cases assessing the outcomes produced by urban activism/movements in which squatting is a relevant feature. Therefore, both activists and academics could learn from the struggles in which squatting is concerned.

This means we aim to analyse significant cases of “success” and “failure” in the production of urban commons (according to the activists’ and researchers’ judgements and by taking into account different meanings, possibilities and types of “success-failure”) in order to learn from them. Both ongoing and past experiences can be included as cases. A significant involvement of activists in the research process, not as mere informants, is also crucial (i.e. bridging academia and activism). This can be divided into two major topics to investigate in every case:

1) Self-management
1.1) Type of self-management achieved (in its different stages, before and after repression/legalisation, inside and outside the squats, according to different economic and political-ideological components, etc.)
1.2) Anti-capitalist dimensions (and contradictions) of squatting for living, for the promotion of Social Centres, for solidarity with vulnerable groups, for contesting urban policies, etc.
2) Urban commons
2.1) Squatters and squats involved in social movements that defend, manage or create urban commons –how and why?
2.2) Contributions of squatting activism to the different forms of “institutionalisation” (legalisation and negotiations with the authorities or owners) or resistance-to-institutionalisation of urban commons (squats included)

In addition, case studies may also include analyses about repression and resistance to it (legal battles and strategies while dealing with the ownership, the police and political authorities). Related issues such as coalitions, brokerage and social dynamics are also welcome should they help to make sense of the main topics under examination. We especially welcome cases from “non-Western” contexts.

Funding: we are still applying for grants to different institutions. Crowdfunding might be explored as well.

First conference already held in Stockholm 27-28 April, 2018. Next meeting to be held in Catania (Italy) 13-17 June, 2018.