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Squats as quasi-public places: A legal perspective

Authors: Nikos Ntounis*, Institute of Place Management, Manchester Metropolitan University, Jenny Kanellopoulou, Manchester Metropolitan University, James Scott Vandeventer, Manchester Metropolitan University
Topics: Legal Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: squatting; urban squat; quasi-public place; public space; legal geography; Slovenia; Ljubljana
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 4:35 PM
Room: Virtual Track 3
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Urban squats are often understood as places of collective world-making that allow users to produce an alternative urban infrastructure, including their reconfiguration as public places (Vasudevan, 2015). However, such practices are inevitably contested, as illegal occupation of private property leads owners to pursue legal action. This research builds upon the legal case of ROG factory, a famous squatted factory in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to demonstrate how the squat’s uses and activities can dictate its private/public status by bypassing the status quo in a specific jurisdiction. The research adopts an interdisciplinary approach into the legal space by combining black letter and comparative legal analysis with ethnographic research, building upon the Slovenian Supreme Court’s decision to declare ROG a quasi-public place. Specifically, the case states that ROG is openly and freely accessible to all citizens of Ljubljana, who are able to participate in political, cultural, athletic, and educational activities in its buildings, and that the users of ROG factory constitute an “amorphous, anonymous, and ever-changing social formation” that lacks any hierarchical form of organisation. As such, ROG users lack legal standing and can neither sue or be sued in a court of law. We argue that this renders ROG as a sociomaterial assemblage, operating outside of traditional legal jurisdictional boundaries, thus leading to a reconstitution of how public is understood. Thus, the research asks how quasi-public places receive legal justification in relation to other notions of pseudo-public places in the present era of privatisation.

Vasudevan,A. (2015) The Autonomous City, Progress in Human Geography

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