From Occupation to Recuperation: Property, Politics and Provincialization in Contemporary Madrid


Recent debates have once again engaged with the substance and meaning of urban politics within our increasingly complex and startling contemporary landscapes. Yet these debates, while giving nods in the direction of feminist and postcolonial scholarship, largely work through traditional lenses of class, labor and the dynamic workings of neoliberal capitalism. In this article, I focus on spaces of difference and their engagement with the urban to demonstrate how politics ‘happens’ in locations often left off the map of both scholarship and popular imaginaries, and, crucially, how those locations can, in fact, illuminate shifting political arrangements elided by other methodologies. By juxtaposing European okupa debates with postcolonial discussions of urban informality, I trace what I argue is a new iteration of squatting within a city both ravaged by edicts of neoliberal austerity and buoyed by the efflorescence of social movements and alternative political projects. I then explicate the role of property in constituting the urban within Spain, using the concept of ‘provincialization’. In doing so, I think relationally between systems of property and emergent forms of insurgency to argue that we are witnessing an anticipatory politics that fundamentally challenges hegemonic relationships between everyday citizens and regimes of property ownership.