The prerequisites for squatting are somewhat different from other social movements. Most squatters tend to live (literally reside) in their movement and risk being overwhelmed and burnt-out by the intensity and emotional involvement of this kind of activism. The fact that squatters’ struggles revolve around a physical place, which in itself is a form of protest, and that the most involved activists are expected to locate their everyday lives to this place, puts a lot of pressure on the squatters and the way they handle their social relationships or more material practices and needs.
The aim of this article is to examine how social and spatial boundaries are regulated and organized by squatters and to discuss how the spaces within squats are regulated and how the boundaries are negotiated by the squatting activists in light of these spaces being the ‘embodiment’ of the squatting movement requiring some special organizational measures to create order and avoid conflicts that could lead to the movement’s decline. The squatting movement in Warsaw will serve as an example, and its recent development and internal diversification will be used to illustrate the importance of organization of social and spatial boundaries. I will also discuss the reverse effects of the refinement of the boundaries resulting in the creation of hierarchies and processes of exclusion, seclusion, inflexibility and impenetrability faced by squatters in the studied case.
The material for this study is based on 20 semi-structured interviews with squatters’ activists conducted in 2013. The theoretical framework of the study is combining a social movement approach with organizational theory. I argue that squatting, as any social movement, should be analysed as intersecting social orders of networks, institutions and organizations, as it needs to create organizational measures, use dominant institutional order(s) and/or create new shared norms and beliefs, alongside founding its activity on networks of trust, horizontality and reciprocity, in order to function smoothly and not exhaust its current resources (social, symbolic, material).
2016. Vol. 9, no 1, 30-45 p.