- EPISODE 1
This pilot episode of ‘Our Autonomous Life’ introduces the members of the squatted house through a meeting with a potential new housemate. We learn about their group dynamics, different perspectives of housing rights and ways to obtain squatter capital. Criteria for acceptance oscillate between ideological positioning, work ethic, political motivations, willingness to keep things cozy and communicating collectively. But who is this eager candidate for the squat and will the group accept her after all in the end?
Background research (Nazima Kadir): Squatter capital, that is, specific skills and the differential prestige that one gains by excelling in such skills, describes the unspoken value system of the internal social world of the squatters’ movement, what Bourdieu describes as understanding the subcategories of practice that pertain to distinctive properties of a field. Squatter skills include breaking open doors at actions to squat houses, building and construction skills, strategic manipulation which includes legal manipulation and campaigning, organizing, and non-instrumental acts of bravery. These skills and the process by which the demonstration of such skills lead to the accrual squatter capital, building on Bourdieu’s capital (1987) and Thornton’s (1996) notion of subcultural capital, are not discussed transparently and openly but are a fundamental way that distinction and prestige are accrued in this community. Hence, demonstrating the ability to master the miniscule details of squatter living is a fundamental component of being recognized as a real squatter by others in the community. Squatter capital is relevant for members of the squatter subculture and primarily refers to a set of skills that are necessary to enable the daily practices of the movement. Furthermore, these internal values refract mainstream ones in that to achieve a sense of authenticity, one must demonstrate that one has mastered and rejected tastes and values, both mainstream and those associated with the radical left; as well as performing an inculcated middle class value orientation to render invisible and natural a long, arduous and self-conscious processes of socialization and skill acquisition. Thus, regardless of the diversity of reasons why squatters squat, their political motivations, attitudes, and their structural differences, a silent ideal of who a real squatter exists.
- EPISODE 2
The second episode of ‘Our Autonomous Life?’ zooms into the squat’s kitchen, depicting matters of communal domestic duties, shared finances and conflictual group dynamics, all under the constant threat of eviction. It also provides a glimpse into official and unspoken rules, internal conflicts produced from these situations, especially how they are confronted and avoided. Is there a way this group can move beyond avoidance and merely practical solutions for relational problems (e.g. buying an extra fridge)?Questions: Where can people who don’t ‘fit’ into society go? Is the best solution to evict? Is Peter a scapegoat? Why is the movement not more intergenerational?
Background research (Nazima Kadir): One essential component of communal living is the equal partaking of household tasks and finances. Yet the inherent contradiction is that a number of people choose to squat in order to avoid the obligation to perform such tasks and to be financial accountable. Washing dishes, cooking, food shopping, cleaning, purchasing household supplies; such tasks are the daily, mundane, and necessary components of communal living. They seem too boring and repetitious for squatters who are only interested in the thrills of actions or lack the capacity to complete such tasks. Between the obligations of squatter woongroepen, movement expectations, and the fact that one resides precariously in a house that could at any time be evicted, such a lifestyle can easily become all encompassing.
- EPISODE 3
The third episode of ‘Our Autonomous Life?’ depicts the players and the processes of campaigning to save a squat, through a visit to the “kraakspreekur” (squatters information hour) The group finds themselves under the threat of eviction and goes to the local “sociaal centrum” to get advice from the very charismatic “kraakbonz” (squatter boss) Dirk. The story focuses on the ambivalence within the squatter’s movement towards strategic manipulation, the knowledge that is needed in order to lead a successful campaign, their indvidual dreams and fears and the groups’ relation to the outside world.
Background research (Nazima Kadir): In cities where squatters live, there are often a few social centres offering kraakspreekuren (squatters’ consultation hour), at which people planning to squat or facing eviction could get advice from experienced squatters for how to take action. To be a member of the kraakspreekuur, one should—-but not necessarily– possess squatter capital, such as door-breaking skills, having squatted a number of houses, and having successfully organized actions. Certain figures who possess significant amount of squatters capital are often referred to as “Kraakbonzen,”(squatter bosses). The term is an ambivalent joke that acknowledges the existence of ‘bosses’ in a community that defines itself as anti-authoritarian. Their totalizing individualism and their ability to convey that they privilege the movement with their presence brings them respect in a community that paradoxically preaches communal living, solidarity, and interdependence as superior to an individualist mindset and lifestyle.Strategic manipulation, of which campaigning is a part,is respected and brings those who do it squatter capital. If done well and effectively, the practice entails rigorous planning, research, maneuvering legal, administrative and political procedures, all to enable squatters to retain their houses for as long as possible, in other words, utilizing delay tactics through ‘creating a reality’.Despite the possible gains, a relatively small number of activist squatters engage in strategic manipulation and even fewer campaign. Many squatters would rather move out of their house, find a temporary place, store their belongings, search for a new house to squat, squat that house, and then make their new house habitable, all under the threat of eviction, rather than campaign to remain in a house. Why do squatters consider campaigning as too much or relatively, more ‘work’ than moving from place to place under tremendous insecurity with the additional time and energy investment of rehabbing one’s house?
- EPISODE 4
The squatters are preparing for their impending eviction in different ways. Practical matters like packing and moving in a short amount of time are set against the emotional stresses resulting from getting evicted and personal conflicts of their roles in and outside of the squatting movement. Will Peter be forgiven? What will happen in the final moment? Will the group band together to fight until the very end and how? This special last episode of ‘Our Autonomous Life’ plays out the final tense moments leading up to eviction with occasional slides into “reality” that reflect on current the decline of social housing, media representation of the movement, and what squatting means in society today and in for the future.
Background research: Coming soon!