Experimental Geographies

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

Jeudi Noir Update: New Squat on the Avenue Matignon

When I last posted on Jeudi-Noir in the fall, activists from the organization had just been evicted from the “La Marquise” squat on the Rue de Birague and next to Place des Vosges. As I noted in an earlier postJeudi-Noir is an organization that engages in actions directed at drawing attention to the scale of the current housing crisis in Paris and to setting out alternatives aimed at a more sustainable and socially responsible form of living in the city. The actions of the collective speak, in turn, to a complex historical geography of squatting in Paris (see Cécile Péchu’s excellent recent book) and form part of a much wider social movement characterized by an abiding concern with the ‘right to habitation’ (or droit au logement). Indeed, one of the basic demands of Jeudi-Noir is that the French Government simply apply one of its own laws. Law L642-1 from the Code de la Construction et de l’Habitation (CCH) was passed in the wake of the Second World War on the 11th of  October 1945 (and revised in 1998). It gives the authorities the power to requisition vacant property for housing needs (there are currently over 330 000 empty properties in the Ile-de-France region and 122 000 in Paris proper).

It is against this backdrop that activists from the organization have been occupying an empty office building at 22 Rue Matignon in the 8th arrondissement since the 27th of December, 2010. The office was originally built in 1976 for the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. It has been empty since 2006 and is owned by the firm AXA. What is especially significant, in this respect, is the proximity of the building to the Elysée palace (residence of the French President). The occupation has been officially certified by a local bailiff though police are preventing people from entering the squat. Those who do leave the building are not able to re-enter. Effectively, the occupants of the squat are being denied access to food and other necessities. Details of the occupation are available on the Jeudi-Noir website (here, here, and here). See Rue89 for additional information.

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