Political infrastructures of care:

Collective home making in refugee solidarity squats

Matina Kapsali

Published in Issue 2.2 // The Long Read

Keywords: political subjectification, collective care, home making, migrant housing struggles, Greece

Abstract:

Since 2015, Greece has emerged as a major stopover in refugees’ journey seeking a better life in Europe. In Greece, as in the rest of Europe, the long summer of migration has given rise to official discourses about ‘Europe’s refugee crisis’ and the management of migration flows. The Greek state in collaboration with global, European and national actors, adopted various housing practices in order to provide temporary accommodation to refugees. At the antipode of such discourses and policies, refugee solidarity squats have been organised in Greek cities through common struggles among local activists and people on the move. This article contributes to contemporary debates around migrant struggles for housing by conceptualising refugee solidarity squats as political infrastructures of care. By bringing into dialogue Jacques Rancière’s political writings with feminist scholarship on care and social reproduction, the article argues that refugee solidarity squats are not only sites of struggle against anti-migration policies but also stages for the collectivisation of care through the enactment of transversal equality. Through a close urban ethnographic reading of the Orfanotrofio housing squat for migrants in Thessaloniki, Greece, the article narrates the process of collective home making in the squat. In doing so, it analyses the everyday practices through which Orfanotrofio’s participants materially reproduced and affectively cared for each other and investigates how activists and refugees negotiated their different subject positions and challenged the differential lines of power that defined the squat’s participants, such as gender, political background, race and so on. Based on this, it manifests that distancing themselves from humanitarian approaches to housing that revolve around a disembodied care from a distance, spaces like Orfanotrofio construct in the here and now common political spaces of home and give birth to collective political subjects.

Matina Kapsali is an urban geographer and planner and she is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the School of Architecture of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. Her research interests revolve around urban political movements, urban commoning, housing and the politics of public space.

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