Professor Alexander Vasudevan publishes 'The Autonomous City: A History of Urban Squatting'

Professor Alexander Vasudevan, Official Student (Fellow) and Tutor in Geography at Christ Church, has recently published a book on urban squatting and housing insecurity in Europe and North America. He will also be speaking at two events in response to the current housing crisis in the UK and beyond, and the search for alternative forms of housing and different ways of living in cities.

The book, entitled ‘The Autonomous City: A History of Urban Squatting’, published by Verso, is described as ‘a radical history of squatting and the struggle for the right to remake the city’. The publisher’s blurb describes the book as ‘the first popular history of squatting as practised in Europe and North America’, covering the struggle for housing in Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Detroit, Hamburg, London, Madrid, Milan, New York, and Vancouver. As well as examining the organisation of alternative forms of housing, Professor Vasudevan also looks at the official response, including the recent criminalisation of squatting, the brutal eviction of squatters and their widespread vilification. The blurb concludes: ‘pictured as a way to reimagine and reclaim the city, squatting offers an alternative to housing insecurity, oppressive property speculation and the negative effects of urban regeneration. We must, therefore, more than ever, reanimate and remake the urban environment as a site of radical social transformation’. More details about the book are available on the Verso website.

Professor Vasudevan is also speaking on the subject of housing at two events in the coming days. On Saturday 21 October he will take part in a panel discussion at Festival of the Future City Bath, as part of three days of walks, talks, events and exhibitions to explore life in modern cities with leading thinkers, writers, architects and artists. Alongside fellow panellists Justin McQuirk and Anna Minton, and chaired by Douglas Murphy, Professor Vasudevan will discuss ‘Housing in the Future City’.

Following this, on Monday 23 October Professor Vasudevan will take part in a panel discussion hosted by the Department of Sociology at the London School of Economics, entitled ‘What is Housing For?’. Chaired by Suzanne Hall, Associate Professor in Sociology at LSE, the panel will be made up of Professor Vasudevan, David Madden and Anna Minton. The discussion will cover the universal need for a home, alongside the conflict between the ideal of housing for all and housing being dominated by economic and political logistics, raising questions about what, and whom, housing is for. The event will reflect on themes arising from recent books by the speakers, and will explore ‘struggles over the shape and function of the housing system in contemporary cities’, connecting an analysis of the housing crisis with debates about commodification, residential injustice and rights.

Professor Vasudevan joined Christ Church and the School of Geography and the Environment in January 2017, having previously taught at the University of Nottingham and Durham University. His undergraduate teaching covers Human Geography core papers, and New Approaches to Urban Geography, and his research interests combine cultural and historical geography and urban studies with a commitment to experimental artistic practices and grassroots social activism. His work explores, in particular, the city as a site of political contestation drawing on a range of methods (archival, ethnographic and participatory).