ABSTRACT

The call above appeared in early January 2011 in an email circulated on a Londonbased social centres mailing list. As is often the case with new occupations, the message set out the aims of the collective and listed future familiar uses of the space as an infoshop, a freeshop and an open space to socialise and organise. Occupation-based urban practices such as squatted social centres have long been associated with political processes of resistance to capitalist dynamics and with the constitution of prefigurative alternative urban relations (Vasudevan, 2011; 2015). The spatial appropriation of disused buildings and their transformation into spaces of public and collective use have been studied in the context of the radical political landscape of ‘autonomous geographies’ in cities across Europe (Montagna, 2006; Ruggiero, 2000; Squatting Europe Kollective, 2013) and in the UK (Hodkinson and Chatterton, 2006). While autonomous urban spaces are at times imagined and represented as ‘liberated enclaves surrounded by a hostile capitalist environment’ (Stavrides, 2014, p. 547), equating autonomy to distinct spaces ‘defined by their exteriority to the rest of the city-society’ (ibid.), authors concerned with the transformative power of reclaimed urban spaces as ‘urban commons’ (Eizenberg, 2012; Newman, 2013) have increasingly paid attention to the politics of interaction of those spaces and practices with the wider city (Stavrides, 2014).