Occupation as refrain: territory and beyond in Occupy London
(2018) Social Movement Studies, 17 (2), pp. 127-143.
Emerging with the wider ‘movements of the squares’ of 2011, Occupy London was defined by occupation, and by participants’ negotiation of what occupation meant. Its forms and meanings changed as London’s Occupiers moved between occupied sites, through uprootings by eviction, and into post-eviction attempts to extend Occupy’s territorial politics without the camps. This paper builds on three years of ethnography to consider occupation as an unfolding process, using Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the ‘refrain’. This describes territory in three ‘moments’: the marking of a fragile centre; the stabilization of a bounded ‘home’; and the breaching of boundaries, extending in progressive directions. This rubric is used to analyze London’s occupations, and their defining tension, between an expansive desire to ‘Occupy Everywhere’–connecting to the wider ‘99 percent’–and the tendency to become embedded in the protest camp ‘home’. The features of ‘home’ are analyzed using Foucault’s concept of ‘heterotopia’, highlighting an alterity with ambivalent consequences for Occupy’s project. The paper argues that despite a desire to ‘deterritorialize’ occupation, Occupy London stalled in the moment of ‘home’, a consequence of the camp’s status as the ‘common ground’ of an often disparate movement, and the reduction of productive capacities characterizing Occupy’s terminal downswing. © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
heterotopia; occupation; Occupy movement; protest camp; refrain; social movement territory