Alex Vasudevan (University of Nottingham)
In this paper I explore the history of squatting in Berlin from the late 1960s to the present. The paper pays particular attention to the ways in which squatting and other occupation-based practices re-imagined the city as a space of refuge, gathering and subversion. If squatting came to represent a necessary protest against housing precarity, my main aim here is to show how it also served as a constituent protest for alternative ways of living together in increasingly divided and unequal urban settings. Drawing on extensive archival and ethnographic fieldwork, I explore how squatting became the basis for the composition of a radical domiciliary politics where the very practices of ‘occupation’ acted as both a precarious form of urban dwelling and as an informal autonomous approach to re-thinking the urban. As I hope to show, the micro-geographies of occupation established a different social ontology that moved beyond conventional formulations or bracketings of the ‘political.’ But more than this, a thick description of the Berliner Besetzerszene also offers, I argue, three essential orientations towards a radical geography of infrastructure: firstly a detailed empirical focus on the production of alternative urban spaces with a particular emphasis on the processes through which political horizons are made, unmade, and remade; secondly a theoretical imaginary that extends our understanding of how emancipatory urban politics are assembled, contested and made ‘common’; and thirdly, an historical perspective that re-imagines the city as a living archive of alternative knowledges, materials and resources.
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