Occupy, Resist, Construct, Dwell!

A Genealogy of Urban Occupation Movements in Central São Paulo

Jeroen Stevens

Published in Issue 1.1 // Retrospectives

Keywords: Inclusive Urbanism, Mutual Aid, Squatting, Urban Activism, Urban Social Movements


This paper offers a genealogy of building occupations carried out by occupation movements in central São Paulo to shed light on the particular form of urbanism that emanates from such downtown occupation practices. The main objective is to illustrate how occupation movements played a structural role in the urban recuperation of São Paulo’s central area by re-inhabiting a disaggregated stockpile of vacant buildings with thousands of homeless families, initiating parallel processes of architectural renewal and social reform. To that end, the contribution reconstructs the emergence and subsequent proliferation of occupation movements in central São Paulo between the 1970s and the 2010s. It dwells on particular exemplary building occupations during this period. This contribution draws from extensive discourse analysis, and multiple years of participant observation carried out in close collaboration with multiple occupations movements, especially the FLM (Alliance of the Struggle for Housing) and the MSTC (Homeless Movement of the Centre).


Jeroen Stevens is an architect and urbanist, engaged as a post-doctoral researcher at the OSA Research Group on Urbanism & Architecture at the University of Leuven (Belgium). His work focusses on the particular interplay between urbanism and urban movements, exploring the methodological nexus of urban analysis and urban anthropology. He closely collaborates therefor with social movements, cultural collectives, human rights associations and governmental as well as academic institutions. 

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