Author:Ernst Henning Hahn (CRC 923 Threatened Order - Societies under Stress, Tübingen)
Paper short abstract:
This paper draws from recent scientific interest in 'new' practices of occupying spaces as forms of resistance but challenges their perception as new by giving insight into historic events as e.g. the occupation of construction sites by the Anti-Nuclear-Movement in West-Germany in the 80s.
Paper long abstract:
In 1980 5.000 participants of West Germany's Anti-Nuclear-Movement occupied the drilling site '1004' near Gorleben from May the 3rd until June the 4th. Not only did they slow down the construction of the nuclear reprocessing plant for at least four weeks but built a whole village with community house, public washrooms, communal kitchen, a church and many more wooden facilities. They even proclaimed the 'Freie Republik Wendland' and distributed own IDs to the inhabitants in which they assured that the holder's attitude towards life would be positive and his ability to critical thoughts given. The ID would further be valid as long as the holder doesn't lose his ability to laugh. All decision making processes were organized in a grassroots-democratic way. Thus participants insisted that the occupation was not only a form of resistance but even more a way of 'doing utopia' which means that they tried to cause change within major society by living (!) up to their own standards. These were strongly related to alternative lifestyles and ideologies spread among West-Germany's alternative milieu.
In recent years, spectacular events as e.g. the occupation of the Wall Street performed by the occupy movement have drawn researchers' interest to new forms of protest. Graeber (2013) even published an ethnography about forms of 'direct action', which challenge power relations inscribed in public places in a playful way. This paper deals with the question if those forms really can be labelled as 'new' by pointing out that there have been historical precursors.
Occupying spaces: dwelling as resistance