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(Re)appropriating Space: The Revolution of Everyday Life in Autonomous Social Centres in Bologna, Italy


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(Re)appropriating Space: The Revolution of Everyday Life in Autonomous Social Centres in

Bologna, Italy

Irene Zatti 12063274

UvA - Universiteit van Amsterdam MSc in International Development Studies

School of Social and Behavioural Sciences 2021-2022

Author Note

This research was written under the guidance and support of postdoctoral researcher Yannis Tzaninis.

Second reader Dr. Yves Van Leynseele.

Correspondence regarding this study should be sent to:



Acknowledgments / Ringraziamenti

This thesis is not only the final outcome of my academic studies, but it is a project that asked a great amount of commitment and hard work for its finalization. It was a breeze of fresh air to have the chance to combine my personal interests with my academic career: radical commitment with development studies. For this, I would like to thank the people who show me constant support for what I was accomplishing.

First and foremost, I would like to thank my supervisor Yannis Tzaninis for his guidance before, during, and after the writing of this thesis. I received an incredible amount of continuous support which made me very proud of the work I have completed.

During my fieldwork, I met wonderful people who are enthusiastic about their work.

Voglio ringraziare tutte le persone conosciute a Làbas (non solo quelle intervistate!), siete state davvero una boccata d’aria fresca che mi ha permesso di respirare e di trovare un posto che mi faccia sentire a casa dopo tanto tempo passato lontano. Un grazie speciale a tutt* coloro che mi hanno mostrato che ancora posso avere speranza per tematiche che ritenevo personali e invece sono condivise. Un ultimo grazie speciale a C. e G. che mi hanno accompagnato dal primo giorno all’ultimo, grazie per avermi ricordato la spontaneità e la voglia di coltivare mille passioni diverse.

A special thanks to Silvia, la mia vera casa a Bologna (e altrove). Mi hai ricordato che persona ero prima degli scorsi due anni di pandemia e mi hai fatto sentire di nuovo me stessa, felice e libera.

Another special thanks to Thalia, my second home abroad. I can’t express enough appreciation for your love and support during the past four years. You are literally the reason why I am still here and I have managed to complete my thesis in time.

Grazie a Letizia, Sergio, Lola (e Daniele) che dopo tutti questi anni non si sono mai perse per strada. Ogni volta che torno è come se non fossi mai andata via.

I am grateful for the support of my friends and course mates Lola, Horla, and James. Thank you for being the best people I could ask to meet during my stay in Amsterdam.

Finally, il grazie più importante va ai miei genitori e alla mia famiglia. Grazie per avermi sempre permesso di seguire le mie passioni e interessi (anche se non convenzionali), e per aver sempre accolto le mie idee e progetti con un sorriso, nonostante il dubbio di cosa stessi effettivamente scrivendo.



As a response to the rising level of unequal access to the city commons and resources, urban social movements began to rise against the system through the practice of squatting. In Italy, with the worsening of the financial and debt crisis, grassroots collectives began to organize in the so-called Social Centres, long term squatted projects which follow principles of autonomy and self- organization. Existing research addresses the internal organization of social centres, but fails to provide a comprehensive understanding of how social centres engage in the (re)appropriation of urban space at the city level. The present study aims to address this gap, by connecting the urban commons and the right to the city framework to the practice of setting up social centres. The research explores four different themes observed in the social centre Làbas in Bologna (Italy) by engaging in a multi-method design with semi-structured interviews with the key activists and participatory observation of the ongoing projects and initiatives. These methods allowed the observation of (1) the centre’s internal praxis and organization, (2) its management of open space, (3) how it engages in practices of mutualism, and (4) how it enhances the self- emancipation of the people involved in the projects. To conclude, this research argues that autonomous social centres represent an essential bottom-up and grassroot alternative for the reappropriation urban space and the promotion of a right and fair access to the city commons. In such context, social centres provide a viable alternative for the marginalized parts of the population to reclaim their right to the city whilst embracing radical change.

Keywords: Social Centres; urban commons; right to the city; grassroots organizations;



Table of Contents

Acknowledgments / Ringraziamenti ... 2

Abstract ... 3

1. Introduction ... 7

1.1 Background and Problem Statement ... 7

1.2 Academic Relevance ... 9

1.3 Societal Relevance ... 10

1.4 Purpose and Scope ... 10

1.5 Thesis Outline ... 11

2. Theoretical Framework ... 12

2.1 Introduction ... 12

2.2 The Right to The City (RTTC)... 12

2.3 Urban Commons/Commoning ... 14

2.4 Autonomous Social Centres (SCs) ... 16

2.5 Conceptual Framework ... 18

2.6 Conclusion ... 19

3 Research methods ... 21

3.1 Introduction and Chapter Outline ... 21

3.2 Research Question and Sub-Questions ... 21

3.3 Research Design ... 21

3.3.1 Research Approach ... 21

3.3.2 Unit of Analysis ... 22

3.3.3 Sampling Strategy ... 22

3.4 Research Methods for Data Collection and Analysis ... 22

3.4.1 Data Collection ... 22

Participatory observation ... 23

Semi-structured interviews ... 24

3.4 Quality Criteria ... 24


3.5 Positionality and Ethical Reflection ... 27

3.5.1 Positionality ... 27

3.5.2 Ethics ... 28

3.6 Limitations ... 29

3.7 Conclusion ... 30

4. Research Location and Context ... 31

4.1 Introduction ... 31

4.2 The “Red City” of Bologna ... 31

4.3 Social Centre Làbas ... 33

4.3.1 Làbas’ Occupation and Eviction... 33

4.3.2 SC Làbas in Vicolo Bolognetti ... 35

4.4 List of Activities at Làbas ... 36

4.5 Conclusion ... 38

5. SC Làbas and the ‘Commoning of Urban Space’ ... 39

5.1 Internal Praxis and Operationalization ... 39

5.1.1 Autonomy and Self-Management ... 39

5.2 Làbas and Open Space ... 43

5.2.2 Managing Common Space ... 44

5.3 Theoretical Reflection ... 48

5.4 Conclusion ... 50

6. The ‘Space of the Expelled’: Mutualism and Self-Emancipation ... 51

6.1 Practices of Mutualism ... 51

6.1.1 Mutualism and Political Activism ... 51

6.2 Self-emancipation ... 54

6.2.1 Self-emancipation in the Italian School for Migrants ... 54

6.3. Theoretical Reflection ... 59

6.4 Conclusion ... 61

7. Conclusion ... 62

7.1 Answering the Main Research Question ... 62


7.2 Theoretical Reflection ... 63

7.3 Research Recommendations ... 64

Reference List ... 66

Appendix 1: Transparency Document ... 70

Appendix 2: Operationalization Table ... 71



1. Introduction

1.1 Background and Problem Statement

The rise of contemporary neoliberal capitalism, together with its limitations on the equal distribution of wealth and private property (Chatterton & Pusey 2020), has made access to cities’

goods, services, and resources increasingly challenging, resulting in the social and spatial exclusion of certain parts of the population from the city organism. While modern capitalism erodes equal and fair opportunity to access socio-political and economic resources and activities through the unequal distribution of capital and private property (Chatterton & Pusey 2020), the urban sphere has not been left untouched by this process. Traditional cities have been greatly transformed by neoliberal capitalist development as this system produces the surplus value and product that urbanization seeks and requires to occur (Harvey 2012, p. 5). The process of urbanization transformed the urban sphere whilst constructing an entirely new urban way of life that could absorb the surplus values created in society through consumerism (Ibid.). At the same time, commercial and private stakeholders increasingly hold significant power in the re- organization and re-signification of urban space at the city level, often leaving aside the needs and wants of the most vulnerable socio-economic groups (Giannini & Pirone 2019). Urban space often becomes gentrified and commercialized, preventing people to engage in non-commercial activities (De Moor 2016), and contributing to the “spatial segregation” of low-middle class groups, resulting in a “socio-economic cleansing” of urban spaces (Dadusc 2019, p. 175).

As a response to the rising level of housing insecurity, homelessness, and unequal access to the city commons and resources, various social movements began to rise against the this capitalist system of oppression, together with urban movements such as squatting. The practice of squatting became popular in European countries such as Italy, the UK, The Netherlands, France, and Germany from the late 1960s and early 70s (Martínez Lopez 2012) by those people and militants already involved in anti-capitalist and anti-globalization activism who were seeking for a more permanent base and hub for self-organizing (Chatterton 2010). To this regard, by occupying a common urban area, squatter movements are engaging in what was defined as ‘the production of space’ (Lefebvre 1991) by re-claiming their interest and use of alternative ‘open spaces’ at the urban level. According to Lefebvre (1968), urban space is a product of social and political processes in which physical space is determined and signified through constant negotiations. In the case of squatted spaces, squatters are denouncing that the access to urban spaces for non-commodified relations is becoming increasingly restricted through the commercialization and gentrification of the city commons (De Moor 2016). For this reason, the activists are reclaiming their right to the city through setting up subversive spaces in which they


8 can challenge the spaces’ common meaning of property and function (Lefebvre 1968; Martínez Lopez 2014, De Moor 2016). In terms of squatters’ goals and aims, Prujit (2012) highlights that, although they vary greatly depending on the movement’s local context and society, the issue of dealing with affordable housing shortages, systematic campaigns to help the marginalized, and the practice of running a large-scale squatted permanent space are persistent characteristics of these urban movements. In the last two decades, with the worsening of the financial and debt crisis and the implementation of austerity measures, we see a global re-emergence of squatting as a social and urban movement (Di Feliciantonio 2017). More specifically, Italy saw the emergence of a myriad of anarchist and autonomous activists who became the most important actors in the national squatting scene (Mudu 2012). According to Mudu (2018, p.449), the Italian squatting phenomenon includes particular specificities, among others there is: (1) a constant dialogue between those involved in the collective, (2) a physical space for physical intersection between the activists, such as the phenomenon of Centri Sociali (social centres) or demonstrations, (3) the existence of “relevant radical struggles outside urban spaces”, and (4) the will and need to profile socio-political welfare initiatives and activities denied by neoliberal capitalism. For the purpose of this research, the focus will be on these squatted urban spaces that started a collective long-term project, creating what is commonly called a social centre (SC).

For this reason, the following study attempts to address how squatting initiatives as a counter- capitalism practice can provide alternatives to a city’s local and grassroot development.

Squatting, together with the re-appropriation of the urban commons by the activists, represents a resistance to urban enclosure, as well as a means of exploring anti-capitalist forms of co- managing, co-producing, and co-owning urban space in a collective manner (Chatterton & Pusey 2020). More specifically, the Italian case saw the development of social centres as a sub-category of urban squatting to resist and challenge neoliberal development in cities and to provide non- capitalist forms of autonomy and collective self-management of space. SCs saw the transformation of occupied private property into public space where it is possible to engage in alternative and de-commodified social, political, and cultural activities, whilst experimenting with more horizontal and bottom up forms of decision making processes (Giannini & Pirone 2019; Piazza 2013; Filhol 2016). Moreover, in the case of social centres, it has been shown how squatters will seek a way to legalize the squatted space in order to maintain it and commonly run it (Martìnez & Cattaneo 2014, 240) in order to offer to the local population free initiatives and services in a “liberated” (Mudu 2018, 452) space from consumerism and in a non-commodified environment (Pruijt 2012).



1.2 Academic Relevance

The proposed study aims to combine two academic fields together, as well as their distinct literature: radical commitment through the reappropriation of urban space and development studies. This research aims to focus on how autonomous grassroots forms of organizations, in this context social centres, engage with the urban politics and environment in the city of Bologna.

For this reason, this work strives to fill the academic gap between the IDS literature and the Italian social centres’ commitment to engage in alternative forms of urban development. By combining these fields, this research aims to provide an original framework to understand radical action in relation to the commoning of urban space and the right to the city framework. Spaces like social centres have become a “permanent fixture of the Italian socio-political landscape” (Filhol 2018, p.524), which raise questions around the creation and the making of new urban spaces for those excluded from the prefigurative society and community they are based in (Pickerill & Krinsky 2012). In particular, the concept of the urban commons and commoning of urban space has been discussed in resisting neoliberal development and experimenting with post-capitalist and alternative forms of social life, such as collective property ownership and the co-production of space (Chatterton 2020). At the same time, Cleaver (1992) underlines the potentials of self- management and autonomy for equally participate in society’s institutions. For this reason, SCs can serve as a meaningful case study to research how practicing communing through grassroots initiatives and social disobedience gives shape to post-capitalist alternatives, together with the development of a more egalitarian society (De Moor 2016; Martìnez Lopez 2012).

At this time, another gap essential to examine is the mainstream focus on the so-called

‘underdeveloped’ or ‘developing’ countries as a site for academic interest within IDS. Although the Global South has been seen as the primary ‘receiver’ of development attention within the field, I believe the West can provide compelling insights on how to approach various development issues and challenges. Thus, the aim of this research paper is to equally focus on those structural and urban inequalities that may arise and be present in a context that is commonly understood and associated with the Global North. In this case, Italy represents a stimulating research location to study and examine these processes through the urban lens. For this reason, this research helps to shed light on the importance to shift the academic focus and interest towards the West as a site for development attention, aiming to deconstruct structural inequalities and challenges through an IDS perspective.



1.3 Societal Relevance

Considering the research context, the societal relevance can be addressed in various ways. Firstly, in the Italian context the emergence of social centres revolutionized the political map, especially for those segments of the population commonly associated with the ‘marginalized’ and the

‘working class’, as they provided a possibility to re-gain control of existing urban spaces and the creation of new subversive ones (Mudu 2004; Di Feliciantonio 2017). To this regard, it is important to mention that an essential achievement of social centres has been to counteract the unfair and unjust spatial distribution of the city’s commons and resources, aiming for a radical change of the current neoliberal strategies (Mudu 2004). As discussed above, up until today social centres represent an important constant subject in the current socio-political landscape in cities (Filhol 2018). Secondly, as discussed by Harvey (2012), “today the right to the city is an empty signifier, everything depends on who gets to fill it with meaning” (p.16), which entails the possibility for grassroot society and organisations to have a direct involvement in the city development. For this reason, this research stresses the importance of direct participation, direct action, and political involvement of civil society in the management of the city organism to create alternative spaces where people can develop de-commodified social relations and experiment with collective forms of living.

1.4 Purpose and Scope

Although similar autonomous social centres’ characteristics and patterns have been studied and researched across various European countries, the literature suggests that distinct features, various internal praxes, and strategies are depended on the specific context in which the social centre is located (Piazza 2016, Filhol 2017, Membretti 2007, Mudu 2004). The context in which the research took place, the SC Làbas in Bologna, represents a unique case study to answer the study’s research question as it represents a well-grounded liberated space in the city, which managed to build strong connections with the local civil society allowing them to engage with the co-production and co-ownership of space (Giannini & Pirone 2019). Moreover, characteristics such as direct social action, everyday activism, experiences of mutualism, and self-management distinguish the social centre from other liberated spaces (Ibid.).

The main purpose of this research is to explore how autonomous social centres can serve as a way to contribute to the framework of the right to the city through the commoning of urban space, uncovering the processes that are most relevant to the main question. Hence, a heavy focus has been dedicated to study and analyse the various activities, projects, and struggles the social centre Làbas is working on. Therefore, during the research field, it was needed to engage with bottom-


11 up initiatives offered at the centre, together with an engaged positionality and a qualitative method approach to ensure a good research practice. At the same time, a second aim of the following research is to shed light academically on the internal organization and the political activism of SCs and how and what kind of societal change their approach brings to the city they are located in.

1.5 Thesis Outline

After the initial first chapter, the following research is divided into a total of seven parts. Chapter 2 provides the theoretical foundation that assisted and helped forming my research questions, exploring the relevant literature, theories, and frameworks around the main concepts developed in the study. These are: (1) the right to the city (RTTC), (2) the urban commons/commoning of urban space, and (3) autonomous social centres (SC). Subsequently, chapter 3 focuses on the research methods employed to conduct the study, as well as the research design and my own personality and ethical reflection during and after the fieldwork period. Chapter 4 is dedicated to exploring the important research context on the city of Bologna and the autonomous social centre Làbas. Here, a focus will be dedicated on the processes of occupation and institutionalization of Làbas, drawing connections with the previous research conducted by Giannini and Pirone (2019).

Chapter 5 and 6 will be dedicated to the analysis of the research findings. Chapter 5 is dedicated to the themes of autonomy and self-management and the managing of common space within the centre, whereas chapter 6 will focus on the themes of mutualism and the self-emancipation of the projects’ participants. These two chapters will be followed by chapter 6, the concluding section which will include the answer to the main research question, as well as a final theoretical reflection and recommendations.



2. Theoretical Framework

2.1 Introduction

The following chapter provides a comprehensive overview of the existing academic literature relevant to the research. Here, I will present and explore three main concepts used and examined in the study, namely (2.2) the right to the city (RTTC), (2.3) urban commons/commoning, and (3.4) autonomous social centres (SC). As this framework attempts to connect radical and revolutionary commitment to the field of IDS, the examination and focus of these concepts is essential to understand the interconnection between them and to give a clear overview of the research topic. To visualize this connection, a conceptual scheme (2.5) will be provided at the end of the chapter. Lastly, the section will present the concluding overview of these three.

2.2 The Right to The City (RTTC)

The framework developed around the RTTC by Lefebvre (1968) has been progressively used by grassroots activists and (urban) social movements to push for the co-creation of urban space at the city level, challenging and struggling against the processes of capital accumulation, commodification, and urbanization. Chatterton (2010) highlights that there is a clear connection between contentious politics and the urban sphere. The urban space has long been a crucial site for the uprising and organization of social movements and activists’ groups with the aim to challenge the hegemonic political power and building alternative forms of community and resistance with the theme of the RTTC in mind (Chatterton 2010; Harvey 2012). Arguably, this can be the case for the setting up of squatting initiatives and social centres. To this regard, the right to the city entails a process of re-claiming and re-appropriation of urban space by those marginalized by neoliberalism and processes of urban commodification. The reclaiming of the urban commons and the RTTC represents a key characteristic to challenge the current neoliberal capitalist accumulation by those who have been marginalized and expelled from this process (Di Feliciantonio 2017). These entail those who have been cut from the Italian welfare regime and thus seek to re-establish de-commodified social relations at the city level (Ibid.)

Marcuse (2010) argues that the RTTC is a fundamental rejection of the current neoliberal capital system in everyday life practices. However, he highlights the fact that the RTTC still operates within the neoliberal system, but without being dominated by it (Ibid.). Lefebvre (1968) frames the RTTC as a “renewed right to urban life” (p. 158), which aims to a reconstruction of the modern existing city and urban society, together with their unequal hierarchical relations. Here, with the re-consideration of urban social relations, the RTTC is framed as a possibility to collectively, as


13 people, re-think and re-create cities in a radical way. To this regard, Harvey (2012) highlights that urban life has become commodified under modern capitalism, and that the RTTC is a way to take collective power and control over the urbanization process in order to re-build cities in an alternative and radical way. As Harvey described:

“The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization. The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is, I want to argue, one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.” (p.


Here, Harvey describes the RTTC as a ‘common human right’, highlighting the importance to reconstruct modern cities and access to public space out of the “disgusting mess of a globalizing, urbanizing capital run amok” (16-17). He claims that only revolutionary forms of politics and construction of urban life will allow the mobilization of anti-capitalist struggles that are able to radically change and transform our daily life (Harvey 2012). This process of re-appropriating urban space through radical commitment can be seen in the practices of social centres and their everyday political engagement and political activism, where they re-think how a city could and/or should look like. To this regard, Lefebvre (1968) highlights that urban space is constantly signified and constructed through social negotiations between contentious groups. For this reason, it is possible to argue that squatted social centres are reclaiming their right to (re)producing space by illegally occupying a given area (De Moor 2016). This process allows squatters to create subversive and alternative spaces that replace and oppose the “bureaucratic demarcations of space in terms of function or property” (Ibid. p. 441). Therefore, squatted liberated spaces are constantly negotiating their space and meaning outside and within their borders.

At the same time, the RTTC and the reappropriation of the urban commons highlights issues arounds the fair and equal access, use, enjoyment, and participation in decision making processes of the (re)production of urban space, rather than its private ownership (Chaskin & Joseph 2013).

Following this, SCs frame themselves as key places in which human and urban socio-economic and political relations are reconsidered and challenged in their everyday practices (Chatterton 2010). Often Italian liberated spaces offer projects and initiatives that are de-commodified, such as free meeting spaces, free art spaces, languages classes for refugees and migrants, free legal support and advice for precarious workers, students, and those in need. In other words, what SCs


14 are aiming at creating is an alternative version of social collective life that is stripped away from its commercial characteristic to guarantee a fair and equal access to their resources to those who have been historically marginalized in neoliberal development, whilst making private space open for the public. To this regard, Tonnelat (2010) argues that public space should be understood as an environment that is “accessible to the public” (1). As the reappropriation of space refers to common people’s agency and power to take back up their urban space without external contestation, SCs are aiming at accomplishing this by challenging urban relations at the city level.

By re-claiming their place in the urban organism, the politics of SC is aiming at making visible those who have been marginalized and oppressed by the hegemonic society. These activities altogether strive to create a space where social relations are non-commodified and rebuilt around feelings of solidarity, self-organization, trust and learning and working together (Chatterton 2010).

2.3 Urban Commons/Commoning

Directly linked to the RTTC and social centres’ operationalization and praxis, the last decade saw a focus on the concept of the urban commons and the commoning of urban space. In general, the participants involved in such process tend to define themselves as activists who are willing to change current socio-economic relations from the bottom-up, rather than claiming and adhering to specific political goals and ideologies (Susser 2017). The process of ‘commoning’ space became popular especially in highly consumerist and privatized centres where “democracy and the welfare state are under attack, new class compromises are being negotiated, racism and anti- immigrants parties are influential, gender is being contested, and surveillance is being practiced through technology” (Ibid. p. 3). For this reason, the process of collectively co-managing space became a popular idea among civil society and grassroots activists.

In general, commoning can be understood as a grassroot project that highlights the importance of horizontalism, the collective use of public space, and creative expression (Susser 2017). The concept of commoning and the urban commons is essential to shed light on how social centres engage with RTTC framework to provide a fairer and more equitable access to the city’s resources, services, and goods. As highlighted by Mudu (2018), Italian social centres’ struggle is to challenge capitalism and its logic of never-ending individual accumulation and gain by engaging in the collective managing of urban space. To do so, social centres engage with a day-to- day effort to collectively cooperate through their initiatives and projects to provide the local population with the right to access the city’s commons (Grazioli & Caciagli 2018). This process can be seen as a form of emancipation and collective liberation from the alienation of current


15 socio-economic relations of commodities (re)production, and therefore push for a subversive way to organize life (Chatterton & Pusey 2020).

According to Harvey (2003, 2008, 2012) cities are engaging in the privatization of public urban spaces through capital accumulation and practices of creative destruction, which dispossess people from the right and access to the city’s commons. For this reason, a framework around the urban commons is meaningful to understand how the internal praxis of social centre can serve as a re-appropriation of the RTTC. The framework around the urban commons refuses the notion of private property and pushes for the co-ownership, co-management, and co-production of urban space (Chatterton & Pusey 2020). At the same time, it also prioritizes autonomy and self- management (Cleaver 1992), while collectively and equally participating in the managing of space (Chatterton & Pusey 2020). These principles based on autonomy and self-organization are meaningful in understanding social centres’ internal organization, as it allows the activists to self- manage common resources and use them the way they think is more valuable for the community.

In addition, the commoning occurring in squatted places entails the collective creation of alternative ways of living through principles of mutual solidarity, help, and cooperation to resist the mainstream “commodification of every aspect of social life” (Dadusc 2019, p 172). The urban commons also call for an anti-capitalist alternative way to organize collective life outside the capitalist logic (Huron 2015; Chatterton 2016), which implies the possibility to collectively manage and own local resources for their everyday use (Huron 2015). Regarding the reproduction and revolution of everyday life, Federici (2010) stresses the importance of focusing on the urban domain of the commons, with which we highlight their relationship with the reproduction of everyday activity. She claims that there is a theoretical gap between the urban commons and their everyday practice which needs to be addressed, arguing that:

“The discourse on the commons as a whole is mostly concerned with the formal preconditions for the existence of commons and less with the material requirements for the construction of a commons-based economy enabling us to resist dependence on wage labour and subordination to capitalist relations”

(Ibid. p. 287)

To this regard, it is possible to argue that social centres and squatting as a whole movement undertake practical steps to the (re)appropriation of privatised space, where “urban spaces and social relations are produced in common rather than as commodities” (Dadusc 2019, 172;

Chatterton 2016). Here, the urban commons allow social centres to represent a space for those marginalised during neoliberal urban development to reclaim their RTTC through the concern around issues of urban justice and a fair access to the city’s resources (Harvey 2008). Such


16 framework manifests clearly in the practices used in social centre with their political activism and consensus decision-making process (Graeber 2009). As discussed by Di Feliciantonio (2017), people involved in the squatting of social centres are reappropriating urban space and establishing de-commodified economic and social relations by reaffirming their right to self- manage public space. For this reason, it is possible to argue that the commons are not only a practice, but also a social centre’s final goal (Ibid.). In such context then, the process of collectively managing and regulate local resources is a defining characteristic of the urban commons (Huron 2015). To make the relationship between commoning urban space and the practices found in social centres more explicit, Grazioli and Caciagli (2018) highlight that the concept of commoning urban space requires an understanding of a “counter-hegemonic production of space and resistance”, where urban spaces are “radically repurposed” and re-appropriated by grassroots social movements and squatters.

2.4 Autonomous Social Centres (SCs)

Autonomous social centres are a phenomenon that gained momentum in distinct parts around Europe, such as Italy, Germany, Spain, the UK, and the Netherlands. In the Italian context, social centres provided notable alternatives to social and political trends through self-management (autogestione) and autonomy (autonomia) and by offering a bottom-up approach to political engagement and commitment (Mudu 2012). Although the practice of setting up social centres for squatting purposes was popular across various European countries, this phenomenon was well- developed in Italy where the activists involved in the project found themselves to fight against ulterior political motives rather than access to housing (Prujit 2012). These include for example the right to a fair and equal education for all, socio-political emancipation and inclusion for migrants, and fighting against any form of discrimination or exclusion, such as fascism, sexism, transphobia among others. For this reason, this study’s interest is shifted towards this socio- political involvement of social centres in the Italian local politics and development

Although it is challenging to provide a general and comprehensive description of what a social centre entails (Mudu 2004), in this context, social centres can be understood as grassroot community-based urban projects which are usually self-managed and engage in autonomous forms of organizing collective life. It is important to note that in the Italian context, autonomy and self-organization are not a synonym to characterise an anarchist form of organization, although this might be the case for specific SCs. This feature is important to highlight because Gordon (2007) underlines the reluctance of many socio-political grassroots groups to use the label

‘anarchist’ because of the common negative associations to the word. He continues arguing that


17 these groups therefore refer to themselves as “autonomous”, “horizontal”, or “anti-authoritarian”

(Ibid.). However, at the same time, according to Martìnez Lopez (2012), the principles of autonomy and self-organization that characterize the Italian phenomenon can be connected to what Bookchin (1998) and Graeber (2004) refers as “social anarchism”, or the “setting up of an anti-capitalist urban community of equals” (870). In addition, according to Membretti and Mudu (2012, pp. 76-77), Italian social centres can be defined by three main characteristics, namely (1) a group of people defined by an heterogeneous socio-cultural network, (2) a group of activists who usually adhere to similar leftist ideologies and traditions, while oriented towards a societal radical change, and (3) a group of people who usually share the same liberated space where they can develop a specific collective identity, have an internal praxes based on non-hierarchal self- management, and focus on their internal activities in a non-commodified environment. Hence, despite that the phenomenon of social centres can be wide and broad, there is an agreement that this phenomenon shares some common identifiers. Katsiaficas (2006) highlights that:

“Despite their differences, they shared a number of characteristics: anti- authoritarianism; independence from existing political parties; decentralized organizational forms; emphasis on direct action; and combination of culture and politics as means for the creation of a new person and new forms for living through the transformation of everyday life (…). They seek to decolonize everyday life.” (14-16)

Social centres can be identified as a specific category of urban squatting, that greatly differs compared to other types. According to Martìnez Lopez (2012), social centres can be understood as the best example in order to understand urban squatting as they accomplish two crucial functions: (1) they provide an open meeting space for both the activists and civil society to have a dialogue around current societal issues, and (2) they offer their facilities to other social and political movements in order to foster openness and mutual help. Hence, those involved in the social centre will seek a way to legalize the occupied space to maintain it and commonly run activities in it (Martìnez & Cattaneo 2014). In this context, activists must frame the activities and projects happening inside such spaces in a way that can convince the local government and authorities that they are having a positive impact on the urban local development and community (De Moor 2016). Therefore, Pruijt (2012) theorized the Italian grassroot social centres experience as a functional example of the so-called “entrepreneurial squatting”, a type of squatting that offers the possibility to engage with a non-commodified version of social life. In such spaces, the local municipality usually acknowledges the value and importance of the centre and therefore condones the illegal activities, resulting in a greater stability for those involved in the SC, as it allows the activists to focus on their internal activities rather than to keep negotiating


18 the use of external space (De Moor 2016, Pruijt 2003). However, it is remarkable to notice that the term ‘entrepreneurial’ rises theoretical and conceptual concerns, as the word used to define it echoes the logic of neoliberal capitalism, and it seems a juxtaposition to what social centres are about (Piazza 2016).

Nevertheless, it is possible to conclude that social centres are organized spaces that are able to offer alternative political engagement to both the activists involved in the project and the local civil society, together with accessible free and independent meeting spaces (Pruijt, 2012;

Martìnez 2012). As discussed briefly above, to respond to the local needs and wants, social centres are often asked to improve the collective wellbeing of the local population, together with the urban development of the city they are located in. Their local initiatives are considered grassroot and community driven as they make use of those resources present within a certain community and which help common people to collectively mobilize and self-organize (Igalla 2019). To connect the concept of autonomous social centres to the wider framework, Healey (2015) highlights that when grassroot communities are in charge of local initiatives, there is a collective control over the aims, means, and the implementation of the activities they want to carry out in order to set up subversive spaces. As underlined by De Moor (2016), these kinds of urban projects are constantly in the process of negotiating urban space, whilst questioning the function of private property, and thereby claiming their ‘right to the city’ through the commoning of space.

2.5 Conceptual Framework

Figure 2.1 provides a visual representation of the main concepts discussed and analysed in the previous theoretical framework, and how they interrelate to each other. In the middle of the graph it is possible to visualise the SC Làbas and how it interrelates with the main concepts developed in the theoretical frameworks and the themes discovered during the analysis, namely (1) the centre’s autonomy, (2) its management of common space, (3) practices of mutualism, and (4) the self-emancipation and organisation of the participants involved in the centre. This conceptual model depicts how the three above mentioned concepts and themes are constantly in dialogue with one another, demonstrating how the SC Làbas, through its autonomous projects and initiatives, as well as the commoning of space, can contribute to the RTTC framework.



Figure 2. 1 Conceptual Framework

2.6 Conclusion

As shown by the academic literature examined, especially in the last decade extensive research has been conducted in the field of the RTTC, the practice of commoning, and about autonomous social centres as a form of squatting across Europe. A special focus was dedicated on the urban commons as a possible viable alternative to set up subversive urban spaces outside the capitalist logic for the marginalized to re-appropriate their right to the city. This research aims to address the gap in the existing literature by connecting these concepts to each other and to the field of IDS. For this reason, this study aims to answer through a qualitative method approach the following research question:

How does the autonomous social centre Làbas contribute to the right to the city through the commoning of urban space in Bologna?

Specifically, the concept of autonomous social centres serves as key element in understanding how radical and revolutionary commitment and practice can further the access to urban space and resources. Little academic research has been found on the interconnection between this


20 specific type of squatting initiatives and the urban sphere, as it is predominantly an Italian phenomenon. This research attempts to shed light on the importance of grassroot autonomous initiative and how they interrelate with the local urban development of the city, specifically targeting Italy as the bulk of this radical experience. At the same time, this study will connect these areas together to provide new insights and stories to the discipline of IDS. The paper will seek to argue that autonomous social centres can be understood and framed as the milieu where these academic concepts intertwine, offering a new understanding of the concepts of communal political participation and living.



3 Research methods

3.1 Introduction and Chapter Outline

The following chapter discusses the methodological reflections of the research. This will be divided into different sections. The first one will illustrate the main research question that guided the study, followed by its sub-questions. The second part will focus on the research design, followed by the research methods implies for the study’s data collection and analysis. This will then be followed by a focus on the quality criteria of the research. Subsequently, the positionality section will be dedicated on my work as a researcher before, during, and after the fieldwork, as well as the ethical reflections behind the study. This will then be followed by examining the limitations of such research. Lastly, the chapter will be completed with a conclusion.

3.2 Research Question and Sub-Questions

This thesis is guided by the following research question: How does the autonomous social centre Làbas contribute to the right to the city through the commoning of urban space in the city of Bologna?

To answer the main research question, four sub-questions were developed:

1. How does Làbas organise itself internally through autonomy and self-organization?

2. How does Làbas’ management of collective space contribute to the creation of the urban commons?

3. How does Làbas engage with practices of mutualism and solidarity in its everyday praxis?

4. How does Làbas enhance processes of self-emancipation and determination of its participants?

3.3 Research Design

3.3.1 Research Approach

The research has been conducted using a multi-method approach focusing on qualitative data to answer the main research question. Following this approach with the operationalization of the main concepts, the study began with a detailed existing academic literature analysis to provide an initial understanding of the topic of SCs and how they interact with the local environment.

Subsequently, during the fieldwork period, participatory observation and semi-structured interviews were adopted to gather a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the


22 specificities of Làbas, as well as to further comprehend the various lived experiences of the participants of the study. Thus, this multi-method approach focused on qualitative data allowed me to have an in-depth understanding of the reality at Làbas, especially in interpreting the participants life stories and involvement in the centre.

3.3.2 Unit of Analysis

The phenomenon analysed in the study is the contribution to the framework of the RTTC through the commoning of urban space by the activists at Làbas. This was addressed by focusing specifically on the people directly involved in the organization of everyday activities at the centre, and therefore those people who were part of the political collective. For this reason, the unity of analysis of this study is the SC Làbas, together with the activists involved in the organization of the centre. To be more precise, I have interviewed activists involved in different activities, namely: (1) the Italian School for migrants, both for the women only and the mixed classes, (2) the housing rights support and help desk, (3) “Quale Maschio” anti-patriarchal laboratory, (4) mental health and psychological support desk, and (5) the “Staffette Solidali” brigades for people without shelter. I decided to focus on activists involved in these activities because they are the most popular among the project the centre is offering.

3.3.3 Sampling Strategy

Before collecting data, it was essential to select the right target participants for the focus of the research. As the sampling method of this research, I mainly focused on the snowball sampling approach. This method allowed me to come in contact with the first two activists at the centre who referred me to other people involved in the collective. With them, I made sure to interview activists involved in various activities at Làbas, seeking to cover the most important and popular projects happening at the centre.

3.4 Research Methods for Data Collection and Analysis

3.4.1 Data Collection

The data for this research was gathered and obtained during the fieldwork period, between January 2022 to March 2022. I have used these following methods, namely participants observation and semi-structured interviews, as they seemed the most reliable and appropriate way to obtain sufficient data and information for the study. The data collection consists of two main methods that relate to each other: participatory observation and semi-structured interview to gather a deeper and more significant understanding of Làbas as a SC. The different methods used for the study are discussed below.


23 Participatory observation

Due to the opportunity to conduct a two-month fieldwork research, I had the opportunity to engage in participatory observation for the entirety of its duration with the select group of activists. During this time, I took part of the SC’s daily activities and I was given access to participate to some internal meetings held weekly in order to coordinate the people involved in the different projects. More specifically, I had the chance to take part of a series of public demonstrations, namely: a protest against the current Russian-Ukraine conflict once the war was announced, a demonstration for women’s day to denounce the challenges women undertake in current society, a parade during which the activists denounced the climate crises and today’s environmental issues, and a public protests against the high costs of living. All these public demonstrations and protests were organized by the militants in Làbas, who would participate as a group, not only with the involvement of those part of a specific project within the centre. During the demonstrations, I took a distant critical stance to observe the praxis and the organization of the centre in the public eye. At the same time, I had the opportunity to partake in the classes organized by the Italian school for migrants. I mostly engaged with the women only Italian class, however I attended several classes open for both women and men as well. At first, my participatory observation during the Italian school was distant, but with time I became more comfortable in interacting with both the activists and the participants of the project, engaging in a mutual exchange of ideas, opinions, and life experiences. The participation to such classes allows me to carefully and critically asses the dynamics in the class environment, whilst observing the praxis implied during the project. During my participatory observation of the classes, both the activists and the participants of the project saw me as part of the group and did not question my presence at any moment of my stay.

In general, the participatory method allowed me to gather comprehensive and substantial information on how the projects and activities were run, as well as the internal organization of these. At the same time, this method allowed me with the opportunity to gather valuable information and insights on the activists’ interpersonal relationships and internal group dynamics. This applies not only with the relations formed between the activists, but also with those developed between the militants and the participants of the projects. Moreover, participatory observation allowed me to understand and come in contact with the activists’ daily struggles and motivation to be part of the political collective. Lastly, the data obtained through the participatory observation methos was then complemented with personal observations and informal interactions with the people involved in the centre’s daily activities. I documented all


24 the relevant observation and reflection within 24 hours after they occurred to ensure validity and a good research practice to my study.

Semi-structured interviews

I conducted ten semi-structured interviews in person with the selected informants. I managed to interview a total of fifteen people as some of the interviews conducted were organized with two activists at the same time. This was done because certain informants felt more comfortable and at ease to conduct interviews in pairs in order to cover important information about the activity they are engaging in. More precisely, after conducting the first pilot interview with the first connection and informant to test and verify their relevance for the research, I then focused on carrying out the other interviews. As briefly mentioned before, I managed to come in contact with activists involved in different activities and projects at Làbas, therefore it was essential to re- adjust the questions asked during the interview based on each correspondent’s activity focus.

Before starting each interview, I handled each correspondent a written consent form in which I explained extensively the scope and aim of my research and the reason behind each interview.

Additionally, the form discussed the interview’s approximate duration, the benefits, risks, and confidentiality of such project. Lastly, I made sure that each correspondent was aware of their right to revoke their consent to participate to the study at any given moment, during or after the interview and the writing of the research. Every participant had to sign and give consent in order to willingly participate in the research.

Semi-structed interviews allowed for an in-depth understand of the various participants’

perspectives, interests, experiences, and life stories on the research topic at stake. All the interviews were conducted at the SC, in a space isolated from external disturbances in order to make the participants feel comfortable and safe to share information. The structure of the interviews allowed the respondent to be in an environment they were familiar and comfortable with. This semi-structured approach permitted the participants to have flexibility on how to respond and elaborate on the themes covered during the interview. Moreover, this allowed me to have the autonomy and freedom to ask follow-up questions when it was necessary (Bryman 2016). During the interview, I mainly asked questions related to the main concepts formulated in the theoretical framework.

3.4 Quality Criteria

To evaluate the quality of my research, I took into account issues of external and internal reliability and validity. However, I will consider the framework proposed by Lincoln and Guba


25 (1985) who reframe reliability and validity into four categories: credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability. At the same time, I considered alternative criteria related to qualitative research proposed in the last few years (Yardley 2000).

Considering the study’s transferability, which corresponds to a research external validity, Lincoln and Guba highlights the importance of a thick description of the context and analysis which will help to determine whether the study can be conducted in a different context (Bryman 2016). As highlighted by Bryman (2016), in qualitative research it is challenging to establish transferability due to the difficulty to ‘freeze’ a social setting and circumstances to make the study replicable.

Nevertheless, the study proposed is possible to be replicated in other societal settings. Although it is safe to assume that the phenomenon of autonomous social centres is variegated and it might differ depending on the geographical location and context between the North and South of Italy, the literature seems to suggest there are certain patterns and general characterises across case studies (Mudu 2018; Giannini & Pirone 2019; Piazza 2013; Filhol 2016). For this reason, the following research could be conducted similarly in other contexts around Italy, offering in this way a comparative case study analysis of the phenomenon at stake. This approach could indeed be a powerful academic insight on the topic, as little research has been conducted on the matter.

To reach the transferability for my research, a think description method will be implemented to provide an exhaustive account of the details of the local context and phenomenon. This will be accomplished in chapter 4, where a thick description of the local context of the city of Bologna and SC Làbas is provided. At the same time, the analysis (chapter 5-6) will also ensure a detailed description of Làbas’ internal praxis and organization, together with how grassroots and bottom- up initiatives are implemented. This process will help to determine the transferability of my research into a different context.

On issues of credibility, which corresponds to the study’s internal validity, I need to highlight my intense and strong personal participation to the projects and activities occurring at the centre, as well as in the daily life of the participants of the research. Usually, this factor represents a strength in qualitative research since it allows to develop and ensure a great degree of congruence between the academic theories and ideas explored prior to the research together with personal fieldwork observation (Bryman 2016). At the same time, it will be essential to establish a high degree of credibility to my findings prior the publication of the study. This will be done not only by ensuring a good research practice before, during, and after the fieldwork period, but also by submitting my findings to the local population who participated in the research (Guba & Lincoln 1994). This will be accomplished at the end of the process by keeping an open dialogue with the participants of the study and sharing the findings of my research.


26 Considering the research dependability, which parallels reliability in qualitative research, Lincoln and Guba (1985) highlights the importance of keeping the complete records at all stages of the research accessible to establish trustworthiness. To establish this, a clear record of all the phases of my research have been documented so that an external eye could establish whether proper procedures have been taken into account and followed during the research process (Bryman 2016). At the same time, it is important to highlight that I strived for a high degree of reliability by allowing consistency and regularity between what was seen and then interpreted during the fieldwork. This was accomplished since I was the only research and observer in the process, which allowed me to have a higher degree of consistency throughout the study’s phases.

Furthermore, on the research confirmability, which parallels objectivity, I strived to ensure a good research practice throughout my research. This was accomplished by not allowing personal preferences, believes, values, and inclinations to influence the research process (Bryman 2016).

To this regard, I strived to maintain an impartial stance in front of the participants and throughout participants observation, observing in a critical matter the initiatives offered at the centre and without initiating any activity on my own. In addition, I developed the questions for the interviews based on previous work on social centres’ activities and practices, as well as maintaining a similar structure regardless of the interviewee and their occupation in the centre.

At the same time, the final research is scrutinized and assess by external parties, who will ensure a greater degree of confirmability.

At the same time, I have considered an alternative criteria for valuating my qualitative research, which can be considered together with the framework proposed above. I considered Yardley (2000) sensitivity to context as an essential factor in my research. Throughout my fieldwork, I strived to be conscious of the surroundings and the context I was conducting research in. For example, prior to the fieldwork experience, I strived to be aware of the common history of the space, especially on crucial and sensitive topics such as the centre’s eviction and relationship with the local police force. At the same time, although the settings, context, and language were familiar to me during the experience, it was essential for me to consider my positionality and other ethical issues and concerns to ensure rigour to my analysis (Bryman 2016). A crucial aspect to this was the ability to communicate with the participants in their native language, as well as my familiarity with the local context. This process ensured a greater level of sensitivity towards the people involved in the study, allowing them to self-express vividly without language restrictions and barriers, as well as towards the history and context of the space I was conducting research on.



3.5 Positionality and Ethical Reflection

3.5.1 Positionality

The reflection on my personal positionality during the fieldwork is multifaced and complex.

Before leaving to conduct research, I was aware of my own positionality as an external researcher and foremost as someone who had never had any experience in the field. Indeed, I had never taken part in acts of civil disobedience, nor I have been part of any political collective. I was aware of my lack of experience in the field of study, which made me an outsider to the objective and goals of the social centre. For this reason, I was expecting to find it difficult to build trust among the participants of the study. However, during the fieldwork, I found myself in a position that Ouattara (2004) defines as ‘strange familiarity’. In fact, throughout my stay at Làbas the activists did not perceive me as an outsider, but as an internal and welcomed ‘guest.’ Since the beginning I was welcomed as if I was part of the collective, experiencing sincerity, generosity, and friendship from the people involved in the centre. This process was influenced due to Làbas’ increasingly outward looking approach, which is actively seeking to build an open dialogue between the activists in the collective and the people coming from outside. This openness gave me the chance to actively participate in the militants’ everyday life, taking part to most of their initiatives while connecting at a personal and emotional level with some of the activists met at the centre. For this reason, at times I doubted my neutrality during the fieldwork, debating whether I was crossing any ethical boundaries of conducting qualitative research.

However, I trust in the possibility to engage in friendships that started and transcended the fieldwork period without jeopardising the overall quality of the research. To this regard, Hale (2008) discusses that the validity and quality of political activism research have to be scrutinized by both academics and the militants and participants of the projects, ensuring in this way a higher degree of objectivity to the research. For this reason, I would argue that my personal outsider and insider positions allowed me to both critically assess and examine the processes occurring in the centre, as well as building friendly and close communication with the activists involved in the projects (Hansen 2021). Here, I would like to stress the importance of being able to be actively involved in the activities organised by the militants, whilst ensuring the personal ‘removal’ from the project in order to critically assess and analyse it afterwards. During the direct actions organized by the centre, although I have participated to their public protests, demonstrations, or the internal centre activities, I have never directly initiated any radical action during these projects. For this reason, I believe I maintained a critical perspective and approach during my fieldwork and analysis by positioning myself as a ‘external eye’ rather than directly push for radical actions. At the same time, I found the personal connections developed during the


28 fieldwork stimulating and enriching, allowing me to contribute on a societal level to their cause by writing this research.

3.5.2 Ethics

Throughout the fieldwork experience, I also had to confront myself with ethical concerns.

Although I was not treating over-sensitive content during my research, I tried to ensure a good research practice during my stay at the centre and be respectful of the place I was in by considering various ethical concerns and issues.

First, as briefly discussed before, during the interviews participants were provided with a written consent form. In this form, a detailed outline on the thesis theme and aims were discussed to inform the participants about the research project. The form was divided into two parts to provide (1) general information about the study and the rights of the participants, and (2) a written consent form to use people’s information for research purposes. In addition, the form discussed the voluntary participation to the study, why participants were selected to join the research, the procedure and duration of the interview, as well as the possible risks, benefits, and confidentiality of partaking to the study. A key point discussed both in the consent form and in person before each interview was the right to revoke their consent to participate. For all the interviews I made sure that the participants were fully aware of their positionality and their ability to interrupt or definitively stop the interview process at any time, without having to give any explanation for their withdrawal. Another aspect discussed both in the written form and in person before each interview was the confidentiality of the information shared. I ensured participants were aware that any information, life story, or opinions shared during the meeting were completely confidential and untraceable to a specific person. Lastly, I also ensured people gave their written and oral consent to being recorded. I explained to each interviewee that the recordings would have been listened just by me, and that no personal information would be shared outside this study. Moreover, although this did not occur during my fieldwork, I gave the possibility to the participants to skip questions if they were not comfortable in giving their opinions. This was done to create a safe environment during the interviews and to build a mutual trust-relationship.

Another ethical concern during my fieldwork was to make the activists aware and inform about my research and the methods I was using to conduct my study. I made sure they were aware that I was engaging in semi-structured interviews with some activists and that I was conducting participatory observation during their events, projects, protests, and informal moments. As mentioned, before each interview a general description of the themes and concepts used in my


29 research was explained to avoid miscommunication and misunderstanding between me and the participants. In general, I strived to be always available for any clarification about my role and research at any given moment. I provided the participants with my personal and university contacts in case they had any questions regarding the research, even once I left for fieldwork.

In addition, another ethical challenge to overcome was connected with the COVID-19 safety regulations. During my fieldwork in Italy, a mask mandate was in place which obliged people to wear facemasks inside buildings. For this reason, for each interview conducted inside Làbas I made sure to follow the national regulations against the spread of the virus and to keep a safety distance between me and the participants. I also tried to conduct interviews outside when possible and if the interviewee expressed their preference in doing so. Lastly, I ensured to thank the interviewees for their time and effort to share their experiences, opinions, and stories with me. Although a monetary and material compensation was discussed with the activists at the beginning, I agreed with the militants to share the final outcomes and conclusion of the projects, presenting them with the main findings of my research.

3.6 Limitations

It is important to highlight that, despite this study has several positive aspects and insights and tried to pursue a comprehensive analysis and investigation of the research topic, there are certain limitations to take into account. First, due to the limited amount of time and resources available to conduct the research, my investigation was based only to a small sample of people involved in the centre. I conducted interviews with 15 activists involved at Làbas, which represents just a small part of the variety of people who partake in the everyday organization of the centre.

Although I tried to come in contact with activists involved in various activities at the centre, it is important to highlight that I did not find representatives for all of the activities occurring at Làbas.

As mentioned, I have interviewed people who are part of the Italian school for migrants for both men and women and women only classes, activists involved in the autonomous reception, the militants in charge of bringing food to homeless folks, as well as with representatives of the housing rights support desk, the activists involved in the laboratory to discuss and deconstruct toxic masculinities, and militants involved in the psychological and mental health support desk.

Despite I did not have the chance to interview militants in charge of every activity occurring in the centre, I believe I have covered the most popular, important, and well-known projects and activities at Làbas. For this reason, I am confident to affirm that this research can bring a comprehensive understanding and analysis of the main initiatives at the centre. However, I stress the importance to conduct further research with larger samples in other similar research locations across Italy to have a better understanding of SCs praxis and internal organization.


30 Secondly, due to safety regulations and measures, it is important to note that some of the activities, protests, and demonstrations organised by the SC had to follow specific rules, therefore impacting the overall praxis and operationalization of the centre. During my fieldwork period, Làbas still had to come to terms with COVID-19 restrictions for some of the events organised inside the centre ie. maintaining distance when possible during protests, wearing face masks, limiting the people who could enter the space for the various events, which impacted to address clearly how the social centre would operate in normal circumstances.

3.7 Conclusion

This chapter outlined the study methodological approach in order to answer the main research question. The qualitative methods used allowed for comprehensive analysis of the topic at stake, helping me address how Làbas interact with the urban commons and the RTTS framework through their grassroot initiatives and projects. Before discussing the analysis of the empirical findings, the next chapter will focus on a detailed description of the fieldwork context, both regarding the city of Bologna and its history of (illegal) squatting, and the history of the SC Làbas.



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