Practicing Openness: Investigating the Role of Everyday Decision Making in the Production of Squatted Space


By means of illegal occupation, squatters produce (urban) space. Previous studies have predominantly focused on the external dimensions of this process (e.g. squatters’ negotiations with authorities), while the few studies that have analyzed the internal processes of producing squatted space have mainly focused on formal and explicit decision-making processes. The effect of everyday practices and improvised decision making on the production of squatted space, however, has been overlooked. This article aims to fill this gap in the literature. It draws on five months of ethnographic fieldwork in two ‘entrepreneurial squats’ (in the Netherlands and France) to analyze how, on an everyday practical level, squatters seek to reconcile a frame that advocates ‘open space’ with contradictory practical or emotional needs. It finds that squatters regulate the openness of the spaces they occupy by putting into place spatial, temporal and social boundaries that define who and what is more or less in place. Based on a level of personal or ideological identification, then, the squatters establish a sense of community, distinguish between desirable and undesirable activities and create spatial meaning.