“Whose streets?”: Zones of performative occupations

Hannon, A.

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Hannon, A. (2014). “Whose streets?”: Zones of performative occupations. Transforming Anthropology, 22(1), 7–12. https://doi-org.ezproxy.gc.cuny.edu/10.1111/traa.12023

Occupy , Privatization , Social Movements , Streets , The Public

The 2011 Occupy Movement has taught us that in seizing space, we can seize the imagination. In the name of austerity, public services and public spaces are under assault, our current political and economic moment is characterized by the privatization of the public. If enclosure is a fundamental aspect of our contemporary moment, then occupation—a reclaiming of public space—is its countermovement. The Occupy encampments became a metonym for the larger struggle over privatization and austerity, public access and public demonstrations, and even for the embattled concept of “The Public” itself. Occupation as a tactic against privatization and austerity revealed the depths to which the supposed Public was already privatized, revealing the depth to which spaces, institutions, and the very conception of the public itself had already been enclosed, had become privately operated public spaces. It demonstrated the way in which the democratic possibilities of these supposedly common resources had already been foreclosed upon.

Main finding
The author finds that private control over public space was demonstrated in three distinct ways in the three Occupy encampments studied: 1) demonstrators were denied access to the street and diverted to a privately controlled park in New York, 2) Harvard's yard created a segregated occupation and prevented the public from joining students when security closed the main gate for the first time in 375 years, and 3) the location in Boston was the site of a recently submerged highway intended to reconnect the city by returning public land claimed by the highway - yet the land and use is now under control by a private board detached from a democratic public process. Two conflicting understandings of revolution were embodied in the encampments: 1) as the exceptional moment in the disruption of everyday events and 2) the anarchist tradition of supplanting the everyday with the revolution as an ongoing process.

Description of method used in the article
Personal experience and documentation of participant observations was used.

Of practical use

Organising categories