Paul Cahill reviews Barcelonan Okupas: Squatter Power! for the Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies

Paul Cahill, Associate Professor of Spanish at Pomona College, reviews Barcelonan Okupas: Squatter Power! for the Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies (requires subscription).

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In general the review is positive and I am grateful just to be reviewed. Nonetheless, Cahill does have some criticisms. He questions my characterization of poetry as a rule-breaking practice conducive to expressing revolutionary ideas. He argues that defining poetry in such a way is limiting and treats lightly certain complex issues like lyric subjectivity. It was by no means my intention to say that all poetry breaks rules, for I recognize that many forms are, in fact, very rigid. However, it is puzzling to me that “a greater attention to the conventions of poetry would have been particularly welcome in the section addressing Escolar Bautista’s work” when it is precisely poetry’s power to be unconventional and not make sense that poet/squatter Escolar Bautista is trying to harness. As I argued in a different post, we need to counter the logic of capitalism with NON-SENSE, with a different logic, with a different value system. Poetry offers that possibility.

Here’s the first and last paragraph of the review.

Barcelonan okupas: squatter power! presents a vision of the social reality of political
squatting through contextualized readings of news media, legislation, literature, television, and film. Vilaseca situates these texts and their producers within a larger sociopolitical context that includes the operations of the Spanish publishing and media
industries. Through its analyses, this study makes a clear case for the need to recognize politically motivated forms of squatting and the numerous instances in which those in power seek to neutralize these political efforts. While the book focuses on providing a thorough picture of political squatting, the lives of okupas, and in particular how they are presented in a series of contemporary texts, Vilaseca also seeks to offer advice for those engaged in progressive politics.

The book’s conclusion, “Sharing Ideas: Okupas and the United States,” introduces
and uses the concept of priming to show how money impacts and influences our
conceptions of social responsibility and how people interact with each other. The
correlation between money and how bodies react to financial matters provides hope for
Vilaseca, since “[w]ords can lead to new actions” (145). This suggests that other effects
and outcomes can be sought out. The impact of okupas and their efforts is wide because squatting has crossed borders as a model to encourage free exchange, including instances like the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Despite some of the limitations of the interpretive strategies employed in the book’s later chapters, Vilaseca’s study accomplishes its overall goal of introducing readers to the Barcelonan Okupas, their socio-political context, their history, and the many ways that they are seen and presented by themselves and others. The book’s index is clear and thorough, and the bibliography includes URLs to help readers locate the Internet sources Vilaseca incorporates and analyzes. This text will be a useful resource for undergraduates as well as graduate students and professors of Spanish, cultural, and media studies.

 

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