SqEK (Squatting Europe Kollective) is a transnational collective of academics and activists working on the phenomenon of squatting in a variety of fields, which include urban studies, sociology, political science, anthropology geography and history. Squatting, the act of occupying an empty building for residential and/or public use without the permission of the owner, occurs across Europe but is relatively under-theorised. One reason for this situation is that there is actually very little data available on the number, type and composition of squats, both current and past. Without this essential primary information, it is difficult to extend the field of study.
In illustration, in the United Kingdom, where the Government recently carried out a Consultation (entitled ‘Dealing with Squatters’), the Government was itself forced to admit that it had no clear figures on the number of squatters throughout the UK. Similar challenges faced the Dutch government before it banned squatting in 2010.
For these reasons, some members of SqEK have decided to gather data on squats in different countries. At this stage, information is being gathered in the United Kingdom,the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, France and the Netherlands.
The SQEK database project is listing squats assessed on varied criteria, which include: name of project / date begun / date ended / legalised or evicted? / political affiliation (if any) / rural or urban / attacked (e.g. by fascists) / website / contact / etc.
The SqEK project has so far been helped by regular meetings at conferences, at which members have presented their research since 2009. So far these have taken place in Madrid, Milan, London, Amsterdam, Berlin and Copenhagen. As the database project expands it has been deemed necessary to set up a separate meeting specifically dedicated to discussion of research and analysis techniques. The research is planned to be published first in English, the lingua franca of the group, and subsequently Italian, Spanish, French and Dutch.
Transnational comparison of the squatters’ movement across different European metropolitan areas aims to understand the cycles of evolution of this urban movement. The specific research questions we want to discuss are as follows:
* How different / similar was the evolution of the squatters’ movement in the different European metropolitan areas according to its social, political, cultural and urban dimensions?
* Which were the specific cycles of evolution and mobilisation of the different squatters’ movements?
* Did they fit any metropolitan, national or transnational pattern?
* How can be explained the average and different durations of squats?
* Was there any significant concentration of squats in particular urban areas?
* Are the type of owners of the squatted buildings a crucial factor in order to understand the kind of lawsuit and the agreements between squatters and owners?
* What kinds of buildings were subjected to the squatting actions?
* How important were the squats for housing purposes compared to those aiming to promote social activities and political claims?
* Was the evolution of squatting following a parallel or opposing path to that of other social / urban movements, or to specific urban policies?
* Was the squatters’ movement the substitute, the follower or the initiator of other social / urban movements?
*How many generations of squatters can be distinguished and which were their own features?
* What kind of structural factors and contextual conditions were more influential in order to explain the emergence and, if so, the expansion, impacts and decline of the squatters’ movement in each metropolitan area?
* How relevant, in quantitative and qualitative terms, were the cases of squats which reached explicit agreements with private owners and authorities?
A rough publication plan:
SqEK is currently producing two academic collections of articles previously published in peer-reviewed journals. We would aim to publish the results of our database project in book format, after having published articles analysing the data.
A list of members of the research group:
Miguel A. Martínez (coord.) Sociologist and Political Scientist. Spain.
Hans Pruijt. Sociologist. Netherlands.
Pierpaolo Mudu. Geographer. Italy.
Gianni Piazza. Political Scientist. Italy
ETC Dee. Sociologist. United Kingdom.
Thomas Aguilera. Political Scientist. France