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Bart van der Steen

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Bart van der Steen studied history at Leiden University and did his PhD at the European University Institute in Florence. His research has focused radical labor movements, radical philosophy and postwar social movements. He published in Dutch on radical labor movements  and in German on the philosophies of Butler, Negri and Žižek. He currently works on a comparative study on squatter and autonomous movements in Amsterdam and Hamburg and just finished a history of Dutch trotskyism.

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The City Is Ours: Squatting and Autonomous Movements in Europe from the 1970s to the Present
Editors: Bart van der Steen, Ask Katzeff, and Leendert van Hoogenhuijze • Foreword by George Katsiaficas and Geronimo
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-683-4
Published: 07/14
Format: Paperback
Size: 9 x 6
Page Count: 336
Subjects: History-Europe/Politics

Squatters and autonomous movements have been in the forefront of radical politics in Europe for nearly a half-century—from struggles against urban renewal and gentrification, to large-scale peace and environmental campaigns, to spearheading the antiausterity protests sweeping the continent.

Through the compilation of the local movement histories of eight different cities—including Amsterdam, Berlin, and other famous centers of autonomous insurgence along with underdocumented cities such as Poznan and Athens—The City Is Ours paints a broad and complex picture of Europe’s squatting and autonomous movements.

Each chapter focuses on one city and provides a clear chronological narrative and analysis accompanied by photographs and illustrations. The chapters focus on the most important events and developments in the history of these movements. Furthermore, they identify the specificities of the local movements and deal with issues such as the relation between politics and subculture, generational shifts, the role of confrontation and violence, and changes in political tactics.

All chapters are written by politically-engaged authors who combine academic scrutiny with accessible writing. Readers with an interest in the history of the newest social movements will find plenty to mull over here. Contributors include Nazima Kadir, Gregor Kritidis, Claudio Cattaneo, Enrique Tudela, Alex Vasudevan, Needle Collective and the Bash Street Kids, René Karpantschof, Flemming Mikkelsen, Lucy Finchett-Maddock, Grzegorz Piotrowski, and Robert Foltin.


“One of the best books on squatting in English language. An immensely useful, wide-ranging, and insightful book about a fascinating part of radical history. PM Press has finally made it possible for American activists to understand the hidden history of housing.“
—Andrej Grubacic, coauthor of Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History

“This is a wonderful and important book. It makes key contributions to how we should think about squatting as well as how we should think about the best way to study social movements. Insightful, provocative, and educational, it provides a broad spectrum of cases and perspectives on squatter movements in Europe.“
—Linus Owens, author of Cracking under Pressure

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What Others are Saying


Politics and the City: A Badly Bifurcated Left
By Geoff Eley
June 2015

The volume under review presents a fascinating mosaic of urban squatting and “autonomous” politics in Europe since the 1970s. After an excellent scene-setting introduction, the volume comprises nine discrete case studies, each authored by scholar-activists directly familiar with the respective histories on the ground. They range from the better-known cases of Amsterdam (Nazmir Kadir), Copenhagen (René Karpantschof and Flemming Mikkelsen), London (Lucy Finchett-Maddock), and Berlin (Alex Vasudevan) to far less documented instances like Athens (Gregor Kritidis), Barcelona (Claudio Cattaneo and Enrique Tudela), Poznan (Grzegorz Piotrowski), and Vienna (Robert Foltin), supplemented by a chapter on the much smaller Brighton with its rather different urban polity (Needle Collective and the Bash Street Kids).

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The City is Ours: A Review
By T. R. Weeks
February 2015

The practice of occupying unused living space in a more or less organized fashion has been a political tool (mainly of the Left) used in Europe since at least the 1970s.  In the US, where laws are far more favorable to owners than to renters, this movement will be much less familiar.  The present collection brings together ten informative articles about house occupiers in a number of European countries, from Germany and the UK to Greece, Austria, and the Netherlands.  One article covers one post-communist occupation movement in the western Polish city of Poznań.  The collection is valuable both for the information it provides on this important social-political movement from the late 1960s to the present day and as an example of “committed scholarship”—no attempt is made to understand or justify the legal (or moral) claims of property owners and developers.  Although this one-sidedness can be annoying, it also makes these essays primary sources on social-political activism in Europe in recent decades.

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Redefining Urban Renewal: The City is Ours reviewed in Counter Punch
By Ron Jacobs
Counter Punch
Weekend Edition October 3-5, 2014

"This spirit of resistance comes through in this book. Although this reader finished the text wishing there was more detail, more personal narrative, This City is Ours sets out to examine politically and socially the squatters movement in Europe over the past forty years. It performs this task admirably while simultaneously providing a template for the movement’s future.

Urban studies are a discipline growing in popularity and importance. The need for a book that analyzes the organized squatting phenomenon in the context of this discipline is crucial.

Already, too much of the discipline is concerned with the profit seeking element of our world while ignoring those who oppose that element and strive for an alternative. The City is Ours is an excellent introductory counterpoint to that trend."

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