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Alberto Corsín Jiménez & Adolfo Estalella:

"The occupation of the plazas amounted to much more than simple demonstrations. The word ‘acampada’ (encampment) captures well the sophisticated gesture of political innovation that over the past two months has transformed the urban and social fabric of Spanish cities.

The acampada harks back of course to an old tradition of okupaciones (squatter occupations), and indeed in the case of Madrid, for example, Sol is only a walking distance from some of the city’s most famous ‘squatter labs’ and ‘urban hack spaces’, such as el Patio Maravillas and La Tabacalera. The spatial innovation of #acampadasol lied perhaps in the boldness with which it brought out the invisible periphery of squatter action into the centre-stage of the country’s most conspicuous and famed public space. Hence the symbolic importance attached to the tent on the day of the eviction. The structural frailty of the camp brought about a radical inside-out to the notion of democratic organisation: it exposed the entrails of democracy as a circuitry of do-it-yourself actions and a patchwork of craft and handiwork politics. It made the infrastructural stuff of politics radically visible.

Early on in #acampadasol campers referred to the encampment as a ‘city’: the fragility of the tents and cardboard installations notwithstanding, the campers quickly organised to deploy an urban infrastructure in miniature. Within days the camp had a library and a ‘reading room’, a kitchen, a nursery, a reception desk for gifts of food and drinks, a legal desk, a cleaning squad, and a medical emergencies space. The nursery provoked many-a-one candid reactions: local residents often drawing a biting comparison with the lack of public nurseries in the neighbourhood.

The constitution of the encampment as a space of infrastructural politics was sanctioned by the campers themselves when stressing what the encampment was not. Thus in demonstration posters, slogans and online media there was explicit reference to the gathering not being a ‘botellón’, an open air drinking party. On the other hand, much investment went likewise into thinking the encampment itself, that is, into problematising the type of event or movement that brought us here."...


There was not much consensus on what sort of prototype the encampment might be a figure for. But the image of the prototype did enable nevertheless a focus on certain practices of infrastructural politics: it helped zoom into focus a particular form of political action, one centred on circuits of exchange (food, materials, wires, cardboard, digital objects); on certain do-it-yourself and artisanal qualities of collaboration; and on the provisional, open-ended and ultimately hopeful temporality of engaged action. One could argue that the frail silhouette of the original camping tent stood as a prototype for new forms of residence in the contemporary polis.

On May 28 the encampments essayed a first attempt at decentralisation and went local. On the evening of May 25 Sol’s general assembly had finally reached a consensus minimum on democratic exigencies: claims relating to the necessary reform of the electoral law; standards against corruption and for political transparency; the effective separation of powers; and the creation of citizenry mechanisms for political accountability. The consensus thus set a common minimum denominator that could now be scaled down and translated into grassroots demands at the local level.

Popular assemblies were called at barrios all over Spain. Thousands of people assembled open air and ‘helped made the barrios visible once again’, as Alberto overheard some attendants at his local assembly say. The assemblies have replicated the structural organisation of the encampments, with a variety of commissions being created in accordance with the residents’ needs and capacities. As we write this, the assemblies in Madrid are meeting every 1-2 weeks, and report back to Sol’s General Assembly. It is too early to say what will the 15M movement accomplish or where it will head to. Thus far, collective and associative life within barrios has indeed been reinvigorated. Perhaps it makes some sense after all to speak of the advent of new forms of prototyping political action." (