A Scientific Initiative on/for Border Abolitionism

Node 05 - Antenna


November 2023 - February 2024

Belgium - Brussels

Squatting, Solidarity, and the Right to the City in Brussels: Unraveling the Nexus

‘Squatting in solidarity’: negotiating solidarity politics and social becoming among (un)documented squatters and citizen-led initiatives in Brussels.

This node has revealed intricate configurations and features of solidarity associated with informal housing infrastructures (i.e. squats and building occupations) for illegalized migrants in Brussels, as well as interconnected mechanisms of solidarity among (un)documented squatters and citizen-led initiatives. It’s evident that the Brussels reception system and selective solidarity significantly influence the trajectories of illegalized migrants within Belgium, closely tied to solidarity configurations in the city. Through our ethnographic engagement with collectives and individuals gravitating around squats in Brussels, we identify ways solidarity politics are negotiated by various subjects as they navigate Brussels’ solidarity landscape. Analysing (1) citizen support of European nationals, (2) documented individuals with migratory trajectory, and (3) undocumented migrants involved in squatting in solidarity with illegalized migrants, we argue that these dwelling infrastructures are not mere shelters but dynamics spaces where negotiation of solidarity and social transformation occurs, challenging conventional humanitarian assistance models. Ultimately, the outcome is an account of the solidarity processes and relations rather than rigid individuals and figures as a location of solidarity. We here highlight nuanced trajectories and expressions of solidarity practices embedded in their situated realities.

Along with our ethnographic inquiry, this research endeavour also unfolded the generation of narratives of these issues by collaborating with a commissioned artist and people directly involved in this setting. These encounters unveiled intricate dynamics surrounding co-creation, collaboration, and narrative generation, revealing challenges inherent in working within project timelines and navigating nuanced intentions. Questions arose regarding the authenticity of collaboration and the potential pitfalls of extractive practices, adding depth to our exploration.

Generative Narrative Workshops: Generating Narratives in the workshop and beyond: adapting to mistrust and uncertainties, drifting in the city with informants and the artist.

The Generative Narrative Workshop in the Antennae of Brussels was envisioned to involve an artist, a researcher and people directly concerned with realities of autonomous accommodation spaces for undocumented migrants. For the GNW to take place, concerned people are expected to develop a common interest not only with the artist and the researcher but also with the general framework of the project, a project funded by the European research Council.

Despite the researcher having developed interpersonal relationships with individuals involved in contentious and criminalized practices like squatting over a period of two months, there appear to be limitations when trying to transmit these relationships to an artist who is not familiar with the people involved and has only come to Brussels for 6 days of fieldwork.

As the workshop flyer was distributed bearing the tagline ‘funded by the European Union’ to the four individuals committed to attending, it sparked a range of reservations. Some voiced concern, saying “how can the European Union be responsible for my situation, and yet send a workshop to fix it?” Despite our efforts to emphasize that our academic and artistic work operates independently from European institutional agendas and is critical of EU migration policies, some participants opted to withdraw from the workshop.

To mitigate the limitation of mistrust with people bearing experiences relevant to our artistic and research interest, we privilege drifting in different realities not only through observing related situations in action and speaking to people but also circulating in the city of Brussels with two bearers of experience who told stories on their experience of the city, their experiences with squats and occupation but also with police violence and expulsions. Drifting with these individuals and passing through spaces of their everyday life have allowed a narration of given situations with multiple voices, gazes and languages (that of the person directly involved, the artist and the researcher).

I. Oubad (researcher), A. Ferraris (Illustrator)

Generative Narrative Workshop Report & PostCard


L. Amigoni, I. Oubad
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