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