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Beyond the Plaza: Barcelona’s okupa squatters at work in the wake of La Crisis
American Anthropological Association (2012)
  • Justin AK Helepololei
As ongoing, financial crisis has kept millions in precarity - and over 40% of Spain's youth unemployed - mass mobilizations of the country's indignados have continued to fill the country's streets and plazas. Nearly one year after the original 15M demonstrations, city-wide occupations have triggered a profusion of more localized and issue-based assemblies. Beyond the plazas, squatter-activists of Barcelona's decades-old “okupa movement” have helped to facilitate the continuation of these dialogues by offering space within dozens of pre-existing squats and even opening new sites to host such interactions. Leveraging decades of experience and skill in re-appropriating spaces, squatters create room for diverse publics to meet on a regular basis. An “expropriated” former bank which hosts weekly, neighborhood assemblies; an apartment building which houses families displaced by home foreclosure; a network of “free universities” and infoshops; these are only some examples of the array of projects currently being undertaken. In addition, physical squats and their social networks are used to broadcast, amplify, and document developments within various, larger activist communities – from labor and education strikes to free markets, workshops, and debates. Drawing on current fieldwork being conducted with okupa and indignado activists, this paper will explore the ways in which diverse actors with diverse interests utilize contentious spaces to facilitate emergent forms of convivencia. The paper will conclude by examining whether direct democracy is the most useful framework from which to begin an analysis of these practices, engaging alternative concepts for considering these still-ambiguous forms of autonomous, collective action.
  • Social Movements,
  • Squatting,
  • Spain
Publication Date
Fall November 14, 2012
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. OISE-0968575 and the Culture and Heritage in European Societies and Spaces program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
Citation Information
Justin AK Helepololei. "Beyond the Plaza: Barcelona’s okupa squatters at work in the wake of La Crisis" American Anthropological Association (2012)
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