Path to the Possible

New collectively produced book on squatting released

*Squatting in Europe: Radical Spaces, Urban Struggles*
Edited by the Squatting Europe Kollective


Squatting offers a radical but simple solution to the crises of housing,
homelessness, and the lack of social space that mark contemporary
society: occupying empty buildings and rebuilding lives and communities
in the process. Squatting has a long and complex history, interwoven
with the changing and contested nature of urban politics over the last
forty years.

Squatting in Europe aims to move beyond the conventional understandings
of squatting, investigating its history in Europe over the past four
decades. Historical comparisons and analysis blend together in these
inquiries into squatting in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, France,
Germany and England. In it members of SqEK (Squatting Europe Kollective)
explore the diverse, radical, and often controversial nature of
squatting as a form of militant research and self-managed knowledge

Essays by Miguel Martínez…

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The University as Site of Struggle

The title of this post (echoing an early post) connects directly with our readings from Virno, it seems to me.  When labor-power appeared to be the main source of surplus-value, factories were the logical place to strike.  If Virno is right (and I think he is) that knowledge is a/the major/main source of surplus-value, then the university would be the logical place to strike or struggle – to prevent the privatization of knowledge and keep it part of the commons.

In this light, one might imagine trying to open the books on how a university licenses the patents its faculty produce, in order to examine the distribution of profits between the state/institution that owns the patents and the private firms that operationalize the knowledge and market the results.  But a more important next question would be how to make such public knowledge – owned by state institutions yet licensed to private enterprise – into truly common knowledge instead…

Microsoft Citizenship

In our meeting today* I found myself talking a bit about the market friendly cures to market failure — sometimes referred to as philanthrocapitalism — that seem to be emerging in and around Seattle. I’m most familiar with the Global Health NGOs, as described here by the UW geographer Matt Sparke, but Branden read a portion of this article on World Water Day; here’s an excerpt:

His belief that market-based solutions can slow that train are shared by others in the sector.

“Let’s not see them as poor people we’re trying to help, but see them as potential customers,” says Amelia Lyons, of Splash, a Seattle-based international water and hygiene organization, who attended Sealth’s World Water Week.

“Coca-Cola doesn’t say ‘These people are too poor to buy Coke.’ They see them as customers, and they go out to sell them Coke, and they buy Coke.”

It surprised me to hear that one of the most pressing humanitarian issues of our time might be solved through free markets and lessons learned from multinational corporations — it feels distant from the “clean water and sanitation is a basic human right” language that I’m used to hearing.

But then I thought back to all the Cokes I drank while on that water-reporting trip in eastern Africa — because it was the only drink available that I knew wouldn’t make me sick.

Couple this discussion with my recent — like five minutes ago — discovery of the Microsoft Citizenship program, and I am sent into this spring break with refreshed insight into the social aspects of some of our region’s major employers.

* We read Hardt’s intro to Radical Thought in Italy, but since we just discussed the Virno essay a few months ago, we substituted Deleuze’s “Postscript on the Societies of Control” and the Ranciere essay I recently posted. We’re looking forward to touching back down with the OSU students over the anarchism readings in two weeks, as well as the subsequent Ranciere smorgasbord.

This is a nice post-mortem analysis of an Occupy set at “a large ‘public’ university in Michigan.” The essay touches on a number of things but there are two main themes: analysis of the GA, and the future of campus organizing. To the first point, the authors thoughtfully dissect what didn’t work with the GA model. They examine it in specific terms of their particular group dynamic as well as in the context of the larger, generalized, consensus-based model of direct democracy. This is a deeper analysis than Wendy Brown offered–though I don’t fault her since her thoughts on Occupy were one small part of a larger interview. And it is a far better nuts-and-bolts interrogation of Occupy than David Harvey offered in his fluffy few pages–for which I do fault him as he had the space of a book to look into the matter.

As to the second point, the authors “believe that university campuses are logical and essential sites of struggle.” Toward that end, they offer their thoughts on how university administrations quell revolutionary potential through the bureaucratic apparatus. They subsequently offer some thoughts on how to make campuses more potent sites of struggle, including some direct calls to us academics to stick our necks out. I really wish they had darkened a few more pixels on this section since it was quite interesting to hear their thoughts.

In the end, I found this essay far more informative and valuable than any of the other Occupy pieces that we have read… especially *grumble* David Harvey.

The Third Coast Conspiracy

A short reflection on the meaning of democracy and our experience at Occupy organizing at a large “public” university in Michigan.

Occupy Detroit's general assembly meeting Friday evening in Grand Circus Park.


The three of us first began organizing together under the aegis of Occupy in 2011 at the university where we work (though we were also involved in other regional/local Occupies). While the GAs on our campus initially drew more than a hundred students, our numbers quickly began to decline and we ultimately turned into a sort of affinity group that, while consistently active, became a closed space with little potential for movement building. Looking back, we remain convinced that universities are an under organized space in anticapitalist struggles but that the dominant organizing models, in particular their emphasis on democracy, require some fundamental rethinking. In what follows, we detail our experience with the GA and sketch out some of the reasons why it failed to serve as…

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Let me start out by saying I have mixed feelings about this post. On the one hand, it’s pretty banal: link and cite more! Duh. On the other hand, sometimes the obvious needs articulation. Additionally, we’ll need to justify to our deans, bursars, and chain-yankers why we are sitting around all day and blogging. So it seems that I had some deep-down visceral dis-ease that apparently needed expression. (“Tell me about your desiring-machines, Amy.”) There are reasons enumerated in the post for its genesis. Yet there is perhaps another reason beyond those, a reason which compels me to repost here. In one of our earlier meetings, Branden mentioned that somebody should be writing, in meta fashion, about what’s happening here in Nomad Scholarship: namely the appearance of collaborative discourse across institutional boundaries and geography, the transverse blending of two individual traditional face-to-face seminars into some new discourse all it’s own. I’d like to think that this post is somewhat of a tangential start to that reflective process.

the Urban Archivist


Plate 76. A well-crafted blog post. Note lines of flight
into and out of the vaguely-circumscribed post.

I was having some “meta” thoughts about writing this evening. Specifically, I was thinking why academics need to blog (or otherwise publicly write) and why it is as important, as a parallel project, as traditional publishing. These thoughts were prompted by a whole host of reasons and one blog post.

Something the comes up frequently in Becoming Poor meetings, especially when we read from The Europeans (which *cough* is most of the damned time), is how they all seem to be referencing one another without bothering to tell us that. As they are so thoroughly well-versed of each other, it’s almost like an in-joke among them. Still, it would be nice to know sometimes where all that is coming from. Relatedly, we’ve talked on occasion of various citation styles which make it easier…

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You had me at “posthegemony”

When I first saw OSU’s reading list, the title of Posthegemony caught my attention, not because I am personally ready to eschew the concept of hegemony, but because I’ve been thinking about how it may or may not mesh with the largely Deleuzoguattarian approach I’m taking with my research. For example, one need look no further than my previous post to see a references to Gramsci’s notion of cultural hegemony. Nevertheless, the conclusion to Beasley-Murray’s book provides an argument for why it may be time to move on to new conceptual terrain via three concepts: affect, habitus, and multitude. I spent some time reading Bourdieu a few years ago and had largely shelved him in the flurry of other theorists I’d been reading, but I’m going to use this post to quickly sketch my understanding of how his concept of habitus fits in with affect and multitude.

In Distinction, Bourdieu provides us with an idea of how habitus and other phenomena relate to practice in the form of an equation:

[(habitus)(capital)] + field = practice

And though the equational form of this idea may be off-putting for some, I think it’s helpful acknowledge that what he’s telling us is that our habitus — our tendency or disposition to act in some particular way — cannot freely control our actions, but is affected by the (social, cultural, political, etc.) capital at our disposal, as well as the field in which we are situated. Throughout his work he calls habitus a “structured and structuring structure” and a “cultural unconscious,” among other things, but the main point I want to make is that it is formed not through the imposition of rules, but through interactions. Bourdieu is, after all, someone who said, “I can say that all my thinking started from this point: how can behavior be regulated without being the product of obedience to rules?”* Or, as Beasley-Murray would say, habit is not constructed through contract, but rather through contact.

With this in mind, Beasley-Murray’s assertion that habitus is one route by which constituent power can be reasserted is indeed a powerful one: if hegemonic constituted power seeks to discipline and order practice through rules — wait for the walk signal to cross, post no bills, no skateboarding in the plaza — then transgression not only flouts those rules, but operates in a cultural realm that seems to exist in parallel. It’s like walking on the Upper West Side, where nobody waits for the signal to cross: you step out into the street and look for cars and then you cross the street (c’mon, everybody’s doin’ it!). And perhaps it’s just me, but after living in Seattle where people stand on corners, in the rain, waiting for the signal to change, I truly find joy in this practice. This is, of course, a simple example but is nevertheless such positive affective modulations — love, joy, etc. — that Hardt and Negri are suggesting to be the connective tissue of the multitude, and I’m thankful to Beasley-Murray for pointing out how the realm of habit meshes nicely.**

* cited in David Swartz’s Culture and Power, 95.

** I’m also thankful that he posted the conclusion to his book for us to read!

Better late than never, I suppose. I’m finally jumping into the pool… starting with a response to the Holland/Harvey readings.

the Urban Archivist

This started as a reading response for Becoming Poor, a theory reading group at the UW that I’m part of, but it sort of ran away and became bigger and perhaps of interest to a larger group. If that’s true, I’d appreciate comments in hopes of following up in greater depth. Transdudes, I speak only from my transfeminine position; I’d love to hear your take(s). In any case, I have cross-posted to both Becoming Poor as well as our cross-country collaboration with OSU, Nomad Scholarship.

On the face of the Earth, spreading like disease
Contaminating, Infiltrating like a horde of bees.

–“Raising Hell”, Run D.M.C

Having made a guest appearance in Holland’s paper, the ages-old conundrum of “reform or revolution?” seems to have played out in the set of Harvey and Holland readings. As to David Harvey I found his Rebel Cities far less rebellious for my tastes, what…

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