From Occupying Plazas to Recuperating Housing: Insurgent Practices in Spain


Urban insurgencies have spread across the globe like wildfire in recent years. The indignado plaza occupations in Spain are often cited as beacons of popular and widespread dissent. This article argues that urban insurgencies with the highest emancipatory potential in Spain today are found in the practices of the housing rights movement—the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH, or Platform for Mortgage-affected People)—that mainly entail blocking evictions and occupying empty bank-owned housing. I elaborate on the notion of insurgent practice by examining how insurgency has been considered in relationship to citizenship, planning and public space. I propose insurgent practice as a way of articulating how people attempt to enact equality in everyday life and engage explicitly with socio-spatial and political questions related to an emancipatory democratic politics. Based on a detailed analysis of two of the PAH’s insurgent housing practices, I posit that recuperating empty bank-owned housing with and for evicted families has the highest and most significant emancipatory potential, as it disrupts the core dynamics of urban capital accumulation and enacts equality for evicted households by directly contesting financial rent-extraction mechanisms at multiple levels. In closing, I outline some conclusions that emerge from the Spanish housing case and from the concept of insurgent practice and urban politicizing practice in general.