Cities within the City: Do‐It‐Yourself Urbanism and the Right to the City


In many cities around the world we are presently witnessing the growth of, and interest in, a range of micro‐spatial urban practices that are reshaping urban spaces. These practices include actions such as: guerrilla and community gardening; housing and retail cooperatives; flash mobbing and other shock tactics; social economies and bartering schemes; ‘empty spaces’ movements to occupy abandoned buildings for a range of purposes; subcultural practices like graffiti/street art, skateboarding and parkour; and more. This article asks: to what extent do such practices constitute a new form of urban politics that might give birth to a more just and democratic city? In answering this question, the article considers these so‐called ‘do‐it‐yourself urbanisms’ from the perspective of the ‘right to the city’. After critically assessing that concept, the article argues that in order for do‐it‐yourself urbanist practices to generate a wider politics of the city through the appropriation of urban space, they also need to assert new forms of authority in the city based on the equality of urban inhabitants. This claim is illustrated through an analysis of the do‐it‐yourself practices of Sydney‐based activist collective BUGA UP and the New York and Madrid Street Advertising Takeovers.