‘Commercialism eradicates the soul of the city’

ADM in newspaper Het Parool (Tuesday, september 4th 2018):
‘Commercialism eradicates the soul of the city’
(by Dimitris Dalakoglou, professor social anthropology VU university Amsterdam):
“The closure of ADM and the rest of the squats is the death of Amsterdam.

I am studying Amsterdam ethnographically since 2015 and I can say that our city is undergoing some big transformations over the last two decades which although we want to refuse them, they are very much an ongoing process changing the city beyond recognition into a generic global city that is losing its character and its particularities, its history and its living cells one after the other. This process, which includes the closure, forced relocation and repression of squats like ADM -which are the living history of our city- leads to the death of Amsterdam.

In Amsterdam, gradually we see the building of developments (e.g. financial district in Zuid, housing developments in Amstel station etc.) which basically could be into any city of the world, sharing very little (spatially and socially) with their surroundings. Meanwhile policymakers promote the mass private ownership of housing and the financialisation of housing and built environment via the promotion of private mortgages, so the housing market is more and more exposed to financial sector’s and big investments’ manipulations. In Amsterdam gradually, low and middle income people, small independent businesses, independent artists and creators, community activists and squatters, ethnic minorities and the rest of the social groups who have made Amsterdam what it is for more than 50 years now, are gradually forced (or allured) further and further from the core of the city, whilst they are replaced by high income, white middle classes with little participation into the collective life of the city, apart from specific mostly commercialized and relatively exclusive enclaves.

However, Amsterdam’s reputation and allure as a progressive city, with alternative and diverse everyday life among the European metropolises is precisely based on the social activities of all these groups, that now are in fact under attack. The social bonds that were created after decades of conviviality, common existence and daily activities and constituted Amsterdam are kicked out of the city as Airbnb, real estate companies, and mortgage officers are controlling slowly the real estate of Amsterdam which becomes an empty facade of itself.

Amsterdam North is one of the main battlefield of this ongoing ‘war against the real Amsterdam’ and ADM plays a crucial role for many decades into making our city what it is. The forced closure of ADM will mean the end of a huge spontaneous community of people who have used the place over all these years and have the ADM as their main site of reference for their social, cultural and political activities that are disseminated in the entire city giving to her a vivid life line. We saw it already happening in other cases in Amsterdam where squats were forced out and replaced either by social vacuum or by commercial operations leading to the sanitation and pretentiousness of public engagement that in fact are only exercises in social exclusion and diversity assassination.

Amsterdam has for decades organized great parts of its collective life around places like ADM and their closure means also the death of these networks and by extension the death of the city itself. We all have an obligation to defend ADM with any means available.

Defending ADM is precisely the same as defending our entire home city from commercialization, real estate manipulation and displacement of its people. Namely, from its death.”

You can also read this article in the original Dutch

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