Accepted Paper:

The gifts of the city: an ethnography of networks, politics and redistribution amongst squatters in London  


Giovanna Capponi (University of Roehampton)

Paper short abstract:

I will investigate the creative ways in which squatters reclaim the right to the urban space in London. By occupying abandoned buildings, dumpster diving and organising protest actions, radical groups challenge the notion of what is clean, edible, valuable or necessary for the mainstream society.

Paper long abstract:

Squatting is defined as the occupation of an empty or abandoned building or territory without the consent of the owner. The squatters' activities are often included within the framework of grassroots movements and protest groups, with the aim of replacing national welfare services, regarded as inefficient, with local and self-organised associations based on mutualism and self-determination. In this way, the concept of citizenship is questioned through the formation of free and voluntary cooperation and through the rejection of national authority. My research concerns a few squatted social centres in London and the different community projects they carried out, providing a shelter for homeless people (migrant workers or local families who suffered an eviction) or to the activists themselves, organising talks or communal meals, even restoring a loan service for an occupied library. I also analyse the practice of skipping (the British expression for dumpster diving), meaning the collection of food items (but also other items like clothes, pieces of furniture, etc.) from the bins scatted around the urban area. As a wide-spread practice of food provision amongst squatters, skipping represents a critique of the current system of production and distribution. Making a living out of the neglectfullness and the waste of the economic system, squatters challenge the notion of clean, edible, valuable or private. By doing so, squatting crews create new underground networks based on the exchange of knowledge, legal help, food and resources.

Panel P026
Governing urban commons