Bart van der Steen, Ask Katzeff and Leendert van Hoogenhuijze (eds), The City Is Ours. Squatting and Autonomous Movements in Europe from the 1970s to the Present.

Author:Donaghey, Jim
Position:Book review
 
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Bart van der Steen, Ask Katzeff and Leendert van Hoogenhuijze (eds), The City Is Ours. Squatting and Autonomous Movements in Europe from the 1970s to the Present

Oakland: PM Press, 2014; 313pp; ISBN 978-1-60486-683-4

The City Is Ours brings together nine city-specific case studies, including oft-researched squatting contexts such as Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen and London alongside less famous squat locales such as Brighton, Poznan, Athens and Vienna. Most of the case studies offer a history of each city's squatting movement, generally starting from the 1960s or 1970s (though the squatting history of the Polish city of Poznan starts as late as 1994, owing to the particular history of Soviet-sphere communism there), and conclude with contemporary perspectives from 2012. Kritidis' chapter on Greece (chapter two) discusses the anarchist movement in Greece more generally, while Finchett-Maddock (chapter seven) focuses more closely on the dynamics between London squatters and the legal system. Most of the authors are, or have been, squatter activists, and each chapter is rich with nuance and critique as a result.

If The City Is Ours had landed in the review pile a month or two earlier, it would have made an ideal review article companion for Squatting in Europe by the Squatting Europe Kollective (SQEK) (reviewed in Anarchist Studies 23.2, 2015) with both books applying an autonomous-Marxist framework to a collection of case studies of squatting in a variety of European contexts. One of the main criticisms of the SQEK book was its seemingly wilful exclusion of the relationship between squatting and anarchism, while inflating the influence of autonomist-Marxism. This same criticism can be levelled at The City Is Ours too, but thankfully to a somewhat lesser degree. While autonomist-Marxist analyses and vocabularies are strongly emphasised in the book's preface (by George Katsiaficas), foreword (by Geronimo) and introduction (by the editors van der Steen, Katzeff, and van Hoogenhuijze), many of the case study chapters actually undermine this framing with a very much looser definition of 'autonomous' or an explicitly anarchist focus.

There is, of course, plenty of scope for overlap between autonomous and anarchist politics (the terms are used interchangeably at some points in the book), and the squatting movement is not associated exclusively with one political approach.

The diversity of the squatting movement's politics are reflected in...

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