Liminal cosmopolitanisms: Identity strategies and categorization of culture and class in multi-ethnic squats in Rome

Piero Vereni


In the last twenty years, the squatting movement in Rome has witnessed a steady increase of foreign participants as regular members but a scarce presence among the leadership. Moreover, the incidence of immigrants among squatters is typically not marked in the public self-representation of the movement yet overemphasized and disputed by mainstream media. The essay attempts an interpretation of this peculiar distribution of foreign immigrants among squatters. On the one side, their being foreigners within Italian welfare puts them at risk of higher exclusion; on the other, political leaders in the squats may see the foreigners (as bearers of a shared class condition) as a suitable pool for the wider political aim of squatting, namely the implementation of an alternative urban lifestyle. Furthermore, foreigners may take part into squats just as a self-attained form of social emancipation, since the act of squatting may equal an otherwise inaccessible house possession. Within these apparently contradictory aims, multi-ethnic squats turn into cosmopolitan spaces of identities that accept transcending their specificities to pour into a common kiln of class identity, between revolutionary proletariat and pity bourgeoisie seeking full social integration.

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