Reclaiming Inclusive Politics: Squatting in Sweden 1968-2016
A peer-reviewed article by Dominika Polanska
Squatting, or the use of property without authorization, can take many forms in different contexts. It has been used as both a means in a struggle for a more just city by redistributing resources, and a goal in itself. In Sweden, the first squatting attempts occurred in late 1960s, in the same period as many other squatting attempts in Northern and Western Europe. The objective of this paper is to outline the history of squatting in Sweden. Currently, there is no systematic and comprehensive research on this matter, and aside from presenting a historical outline of squatting, the ambition is to present a typology of goals or main motivations behind squatting in Sweden between 1968 and 2016. The analysis is qualitative and based on data produced by and about squatting activists and gathered from national and local news media, alternative leftist news media, thematic magazines, documentary films, material produced by the studied groups (pamphlets, Internet-based websites and blogs), a transcript of a debate on the topic of squatting in Sweden including activists involved in squatting, along with previous research on the topic. It is argued that it is important to study short-term and demonstrative squatting as it has the ability to uncover how squatting is used as a technique, and thus contribute to a better understanding of the phenomenon. I distinguish between the goals of providing housing, preserving areas from clearance and demolition, protecting areas from environmental threats, creating free spaces for activities, and criticizing national (welfare) politics. Furthermore, it is maintained that despite its short-lived character Swedish squatting has been continuous with a low frequency, and overtly political in its character, by reclaiming the rights to housing and more egalitarian distribution of societal resources.