Deutsches Haus at NYU and the Urban Democracy Lab at NYU present a panel discussion among Sophie Gonick, Pierpaolo Mudu (moderator), Amy Starecheski, Frank Morales, and Alexander Vasudevan. As rapid urbanization transforms global cityscapes and access to affordable and livable housing becomes ever more precarious, global movements aimed at “squatting” abandoned buildings and critiquing the narratives of private property have grown. In this panel, scholars and activists share their experiences with these multi-dimensional movements and offer ideas for an alternative urban future.
Sophie Gonick is Assistant Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU. Committed to interdisciplinary methods of inquiry, Gonick is interested in race and gender, property regimes, and activism across Southern Europe and Latin America. Her recent research examines mortgage lending and financialization, immigrant activism, and contemporary urban mobilizations in Spain. She has also written about squatting and urban informality in Madrid, including the article Interrogating Madrid’s Slum of Shame: Urban Expansion, Race, and Placed-Based Activism in the Cañada Real Galiana (in Antipode: A Journal of Radical Geography). She has published in top planning and geography journals, including Society and Space and IJURR: International Journal for Urban and Regional Research. She is currently working on a manuscript tentatively titled City of Property, City of Protest (Madrid, 1939-2014). Prior to joining SCA, Dr. Gonick was Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow at NYU’s Center for European and Mediterranean Studies. At Berkeley, she served as the coordinator for the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments (IASTE). She received the 2016 Anthony Sutcliffe Memorial Award for best dissertation, awarded biennially from the International Planning History Society.
Amy Starecheski is a cultural anthropologist and oral historian whose research focuses on the use of oral history in social movements and the politics of urban property. She is the Co-Director of the Oral History MA Program at Columbia University. In 2015, she won the Oral History Association’s article award for “Squatting History: The Power of Oral History as a History-Making Practice” and, in 2016, the Sapiens-Allegra “Will the Next Margaret Mead Please Stand Up?” prize for public anthropological writing. Starecheski received a PhD in cultural anthropology from the CUNY Graduate Center, where she was a Public Humanities Fellow. Her book, Ours to Lose: When Squatters Became Homeowners in New York City, was published in 2016 by the University of Chicago Press.
Frank Morales is a writer, activist and Episcopal priest, and currently pastor at All Souls Church in Harlem. A “conscientious objector” during the Vietnam war, Frank began squatting in the South Bronx in 1980. In 1985 he moved down to the Lower East Side, where he was born and raised, and immediately engaged with hundreds of others in a burgeoning squatters movement, which at it’s peak occupied some 30 abandoned buildings throughout the neighborhood. In 2004, he received a Project Censored award (one of two) for his article entitled ‘Homeland Offense: Pentagon Declares War on America,’ about the growing consolidation of the police and military. As Housing Organizer with Picture the Homeless in 2009, he advocated then and continues to advocate and organize for the occupation of vacant, unused housing in order to create homes, and to resist the racist counterinsurgency against the poor known as homelessness.
Alexander Vasudevan (via Skype) is Associate Professor in Human Geography and Fellow, Christ Church College, The University of Oxford. He is the author of Metropolitan Preoccupations: The Spatial Politics of Squatting in Berlin and the forthcoming The Autonomous City: A History of Urban Squatting. He is also co-author of Geographies of Forced Eviction: Dispossession, Violence, Insecurity (with Katherine Brickell and Melissa Fernández Arrigoitia). Vasudevan’s research has been published in a number of major journals including Antipode, Cultural Geographies, Environment and Planning D, Progress in Human Geography and Social and Cultural Geography. He has written for the Guardian, openDemocracy, and New Left Project. Vasudevan is currently working on a project that explores the history and politics of urban precarity.
Pierpaolo Mudu (moderator) is a geographer collaborating with the Urban Studies and Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences faculties at the University of Washington Tacoma. He has previously worked in different Universities in the UK (Oxford and Reading) and Italy (Rome), and has been visiting in France (EHESS in Paris and Universite’ de Marseille), in South Korea (Sungshin Women University in Seoul), and USA (University of Washington). The main focus of his research is on the development of contemporary Rome as related to social movements and migrations and the transformation of public space. His has written several books and published in several journals including ACME, Antipode, GeoJournal and Urban Geography.
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Welcome to the Occupation: Squatting and Resistance from Berlin to New York is a DAAD-supported event.