The reactions of neighbourhoods to the eviction of squatters in Rome: An account of the making of precarious investor subjects

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Series Details Vol.24, No.4, October 2017, p352–367
Publication Date October 2017
ISSN 0969-7764
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The article compares the reactions to the eviction of squatters in two very different neighbourhoods of Rome: the centrally located, former working-class and traditionally leftist San Lorenzo; and the peripheral, recently built, speculation and mortgage-driven Nuova Ponte di Nona. While the reaction of the San Lorenzo neighbourhood to the eviction of Communia (August 2013) was highly supportive of the squatters, the residents’ committee in Nuova Ponte di Nona promoted a strong public campaign for the eviction of squatters in a building in Cerruti Street (December 2013).

This raised the question of how such different responses, taking place within the same metropolitan area in the same year, can be framed. Based on interviews and the collection of secondary data, the paper addresses this question by showing how the residents of these two neighbourhoods embody the two poles of the process of subjectification created by the singular asset-based Italian welfare regime, the ‘financialization of home’ and the increasingly precarious nature of living conditions.

However, a dualistic and rigid account of the neighbourhood reactions is avoided by considering the ‘commoning’ dimension as central to the actions and campaigns of both. Indeed, it shows how the residents’ committees in both cases were engaged in (re)creating new urban commons challenging the increasing privatization and individualization of everyday life prompted by neoliberal/austerity-based urbanism. The case of Nuova Ponte di Nona, however, shows that urban commons are not intrinsically emancipatory, and that the material conditions shaping the community life can lead to viewing the ‘other’ (i.e. the squatters) as a threat to their lifestyle aspirations.

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