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Towards Dialectic Utopias: Links and Disjunctions between Collaborative Housing and Squatting in the Netherlands

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The article's point of departure is the relevance of contemporary notions of utopia in overcoming the current ubiquitous financialization of housing that configures the production of housing to follow market rules while overriding social necessities. The article tries to expose the fundamental division between the notion of utopia of social processes and utopia of built form (Harvey, 2000). Two cases are proposed as examples of these notions: the practice of squatting (occupying and living in a vacant structure) in the Netherlands for the former, and collaborative housing examples in Sweden for the latter. The article takes a brief historical perspective to both cases, and draws from ethnographic accounts while attending grassroots movement meetings in squats in Rotterdam and during temporary residency in a collaborative housing unit in Stockholm. The two cases are not treated as absolute examples of either, but rather as having components of both in them. Using the tension generated by the links and disjunctions between them, the notion of dialectic utopias is proposed. These utopias contain the process-driven component and open-end tendencies of utopias of social processes as well as the aim for materialization that characterizes utopias of built form. The need to define dialectic utopias, stems from the search for socially-relevant housing processes that feed from radical critiques to the status quo while being responsive to the practical needs of housing production and occupation. The article concludes with the suggestion that both the cases, and possibly the many others that resemble them, have the potential of advancing into dialectic utopias.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2012

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  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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