Experimental Geographies

"There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no-one shall go hungry any more" – Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (1974: 156)

Droit à la ville: Squatting in Paris

I just returned from a field trip to Paris. We take third-year students for a week to the city with a view to analyzing the various economic, social, cultural and political forces that have come to shape the city’s urban landscape since at least the end of the 17th century. One of our walking tours culminates in the Places des Vosges, the first planned square in Paris having originally been set out by Henri IV in the first decade of the 17th century. As we turned off the Rue de Rivoli and up the Rue de Birague onto the Places des Vosges, it became clear that the first building on our left was being occupied or squatted. A banner was draped from an upper floor with the title: Jeudi Noir: Le Collectif des Galériens de Logement (or Black Thursday: The Collective of Lodging’s ‘Gallery Slaves’). As it turns out, Jeudi Noir is an organization that has emerged out of an increasingly severe housing crisis in Paris and one for which the young and disadvantaged have disproportionately suffered (Thursday has traditionally been the day that available flats are advertised).

Jeudi Noir engages in a serious of actions directed at not only drawing attention to the scale of the current crisis in Paris but to also setting out a series of alternatives aimed at a more sustainable and socially responsible form of living in the city. In this context, it would seem that the collective also forms part of a much wider social movement characterized by a growing concern with the ‘right to habitation’ (or droit au logement). This also dovetails with existing struggles in France regarding the plight of the country’s undocumented immigrant population (or les sans-papiers). As such, one may plausibly argue that Henri Lefebvre’s now overworked concept of a “right to the city” has itself been reterritorialized as a new and pressing geography of necessity that will undoubtedly shape struggles over affordable housing in Paris and Europe more broadly in the years to come.

For more information on Jeudi Noir, it is worth checking out their website. See here. A recent news item on the 30 or so squatters at the Place des Vosges can also be accessed here.

Squatting the Places des Vosges, Nov. 2009

Squatting the Places des Vosges, Nov. 2009

 

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2 comments on “Droit à la ville: Squatting in Paris

  1. Ben
    January 6, 2010

    Perhaps, in the spirit of your blog’s name, future walking tours should follow a Le Goff approach (see Fenton 2005 Space, chance, time: walking backwards …)

    You may not run across such conventionally interesting sights though.

  2. Pingback: Jeudi Noir/Place des Vosges Update « Experimental Geographies

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This entry was posted on November 14, 2009 by in Politics, Radical Democracy, Social Movements and tagged , , , , .
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