Accessing the Urban Commons Through the Mediation of Information: The Eliana Silva Occupation, Belo Horizonte, Brazil


This essay demonstrates how mediations (called Dialogues) between the University of Belo Horizonte and the residents of the Eliana Silva Occupation in that city have secured not only the right to urban land and constitutional rights that have been historically violated in Brazil, but also the right to that which is of common interest. The essay speaks to Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s contention that what is common goes far beyond the provision of public services. This starting point allows us to see that urban occupations are politically empowered, to the extent that poor people consciously violate the Brazilian law governing the right of possession and ownership over urban land through creative and cooperative actions that are undertaken and extended across networks. This essay will focus on the centrality of the struggle to build a common communication platform serving to nourish social ties and sociability among those social actors who share the same human deprivation—lack of access to what should be widely available to all citizens. On the theoretical side, the essay takes Pierre Bourdieu, Bruno Latour and Milton Santos as its guides to understanding how social actors act in the struggle for socio-spatial coexistence and urbanity.