Creating Spaces of Insurgent Citizenship: Squatting in Activist-Friendly Helsinki

Eeva Berglund, Vesa Peipinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


In many European (and other) cities urban activism is being acknowledged and recuperated as a resource rather than a protest. This impacts urban governance, planning and marketing, and it has shifted definitions of the good citizen, increasingly expected to be self-responsible and even activist. Accounts of such activism encompass a range of social practices in the city, while commentaries including academic texts highlight use of online tools, its self-organizing or ‘DIY’ (do-it-yourself) ethos and the fact that contemporary activism appears less oriented towards protesting against something than in prefiguratively transforming cities at the level of everyday experience. We argue that though recognized as diverse, some forms of activism are deemed acceptable and even celebrated while others, notably squatting, remain unacceptable and are even violently quashed. Taking an ethnographic approach to Helsinki-based squatter activism, we show that it constitutes an important critique of the privatisation of public spaces, overuse of surveillance, over-consumption and socially hostile architecture. Although squatters in Helsinki are related to an international trend of prefigurative grassroots (self-organizing) urbanism, which is highly celebrated in Helsinki, we want to make visible the different goals that people and groups labelled as 'activist' are working towards. We suggest the concept of 'insurgent citizenship' (Holston) is a useful tool for throwing into relief how squatters challenge entrepreneurial, individualist and capitalism-friendly definitions of good citizens.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-49
Number of pages16
JournalUrbanities - Journal of Urban Ethnography
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • squatting
  • activism
  • Helsinki
  • insurgent citizenship


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