Occupation is a form of life that sits at the heart of our ongoing series, States of Postcolonality. This current issue, which is neither part of the series nor entirely separate, has developed out of a formative engagement with the condition of occupation. The politics of occupations are mixed-up, historically and geographically uneven. The occupations that concern us here are a form of anticapitalist struggle conjured well by the Catalan phrase “em planto,” which carries a double meaning of “I plant,” and “I have had enough.” [1] These occupations, if we allow ourselves to be optimistic, move from a systemic critique of capitalism and its divisive devices of exploitation towards a prefigurative politics shaped by mutual aid, solidarity and radical inclusivity.

Since the 17 September 2011 occupation of Manhattan’s Liberty Square, near Wall Street, occupations of public parks and plazas have proliferated, grown and been forcibly evicted, prompting some to dub this season the American Fall. In describing these singular and sited instances of resistance as the Occupy Movement, we do not seek to flatten the unique form and process of each. As FUSE contributor Harsha Walia stated when she spoke at Occupy Toronto in early November, each site has its own dynamics, strengths and challenges. Speaking of Occupy Vancouver, rebel-blogger D has remarked that it is an engagement with the complexity of contradictions between issues, ideologies and approaches that makes the occupation a “real event of thinking and acting.” [2] Nonetheless, particularly in contrast to the transient summit-hops of the anti-globalization movement, there are significant tactical, or formal, differences to this new wave of protest. These formal manifestations consist of a type of connective tissue linking many singular occupations, with their disparate issues and geographies, into something that can properly be recognized as a global movement.

In and of itself, occupation as a form of resistance is not new. Examples abound in recent memory alone: squatting as a means of defending homes against foreclosure by US organizations such as Take Back the Land and City Life/Vida Urbana (beginning in 2008); the student occupations of university buildings in Berkeley and New York (2008–10); the occupation of Tahrir Square and public squares across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region during what has come to be known as the Arab Spring; overnight camp-outs in the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin (2011) and even the all-night people’s filibuster at Toronto’s Budget Committee meeting on 28 July 2011.

As Silvia Federici argues in a recent interview with FUSE contributor Max Haiven, the occupations of this year emerge “from the confluence between the feminist movement and the movement for the commons.” [3] This movement, which “places its own reproduction at the centre of its organizing” — through its creation of kitchens, libraries and free-schools, for instance — is indebted to legacies of feminism: “Consensus-based decision-making, the distrust of leaders (formal or charismatic) and the idea that you need to prefigure the world you want to create through your actions and organization, these were all developed by radical feminist movements.” [4] After 500 years of resistance to colonialism, it is safe to say that Indigenous populations across the Americas also have significant expertise and insight that should be highly respected and valued by any new movement.

In this issue of FUSE, we can see how the forms of occupation might be read as a kind of permutation and condensation of longer-term approaches to social and environmental justice. Etienne Turpin’s Reflections on Stainlessness develops a materialist history of the Anthropocene through resource extraction and organized labour, reminding us that before 15 September 2011, there was 1 May 1886. Kevin Smith and Clayton Thomas-Muller’s Social Licence is a description of solidarity work between UK-based arts-activism groups and First Nations activists that critically intervenes into the interdependence of the oil industry and cultural institutions. Peter Morin’s Portraits of the Tahltan Land Story is an exquisite visual expression of Tahltan Nation (northern BC) knowledge, a material projection of a “language that comes from the land.” [5]

Writing from the Netherlands, Haseeb Ahmed calls for the formal alliance of artists and arts organizations with other sectors facing funding cuts under an umbrella of radical, organized Left resistance to ultraconservative so-called austerity measures. Chase Joynt and Alexis Mitchell offer us an example of gender justice at the intersection of media activism and public education through an iteration of the massively popular poster campaign they initiated this September. Nasrin Himada and Red Channels skirt around the contours of an open collectivity, a type of social organization that allows for hyper-production without feeding into the banalities of (creative) capitalist accumulation. As the occupations of the American Fall move into foreclosed residential and commercial buildings for the winter and increasingly develop alliances with ongoing local struggles, the continued vitality of the movement will depend on its ability to build on the forms and tactics of long-standing anticapitalist efforts.


    —  Gina Badger 
 with the FUSE Editorial Committee


[1] I am entirely indebted to Hilary Wainwright, socialist feminist and long-term editor of Red Pepper magazine, for this linguistic insight. H. Wainwright, “Indignados movement takes root in Barcelona,” Transnational Institute (October 2011).

[2] D, “Occupation: Antagonism and Potentiality,” Vancouver Media Co-op (20 October 2011).

[3] Max Haiven, “Feminism, Finance and the Future of #Occupy – An Interview with Silvia Federici,” znet (25 November 2011).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Peter Morin, personal correspondence, 6 September 2011.

1 comment

  1. I would like all Occupy movements to uctmcnioame with each other and organize a world-wide rally day. Also connect with other left wing sites like Moveon.org so they can inform their subscribers. The biggest problem I’m finding is lack of communication and organization between the groups. Create flyers and have people staple them to phone poles and place them on college campuses. Alert unions so they can inform their members. I would be willing to help spread the word. Let’s have a massive world-wide rally day. Let’s continue having them. Our biggest problem is lack of turn out because not enough people are informed in advance that this is happening.

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