How the Roma are Fighting Back: A Diary and Guide for Resistance Against Restitutions and Forced Evictions

Michele Lancione (University of Sheffield), Erin McElroy (University of California, Santa Cruz), Ioana Florea (University of Göteborg) and Nicoleta Vişan, Veda Popovici and Carolina Vozian (FCDL, Bucharest; http://fcdl.ro)

The following are five updates from the team: the first two outline the presentation of the project to a squat in Rome (March 2019) and the AAG (April 2019); the third and fourth are notes on their book’s progress; and the fifth announces its release (congratulations to the team!)…

October 2019

Jurnal din Vulturilor 50

After more than three years of plotting, planning, working and sharing our collective book on the fight for the right to housing and the city in Romania is finally available. This is a Common Front for the Right to Housing (FCDL) project supported by the Antipode Foundation.

The book is titled Jurnal din Vulturilor 50: Povestea unei lupte pentru dreptate locative, which means “Diary of Vulturilor: The story of a fight for housing justice”. The core of the book consist of a diary written by Nicoleta Visan, a member of the community of Vulturilor 50 in Bucharest. This was a community of about 150 people, who were evicted in 2014 from their homes but decided to dwell on the street for two years to fight for their right to housing and the city.

Nicoleta began to work on her diary in 2014, with my support and that of other FCDL comrades. Together we produced the first blog of the community (https://jurnaldinvulturilor50.org), which then evolved into our freely available political documentary around housing restitution and housing struggles in Bucharest (https://www.ainceputploaia.com).

In 2018 we were awarded the Scholar-Activist Project Award by the Antipode Foundation and with that support we were able to renew our commitment to a collective, grassroots and politically meaningful way of narrating housing struggles. We decided therefore to produce this book as a testament of that fight, but also as a document that can inspire others to move, organise and resist racialised and neoliberal forms of displacement. The book is composed of four parts: there is Nico’s diary (edited by Carolina Vozian), a text contextualizing the history of restitution and housing privatisation in Romania (by Veda Popovici and FCLD), a guide for communities that are likely to face evictions, but also for journalist that are writing about evictions (by Ioana Vlad) and final photographic essay about the Vulturilor eviction and resistance camp by myself. The whole project was complemented by the help of Ioana Florea and Erin Mc El Roy (who is curating the on-line maps that we will launch soon), and many other too! It is published by a joint effort from HECATE and IDEA publishing houses. A translation into English is also on the way and we’ll see light in 2020.

I am so proud of this project, because it shows how it is possible to work meaningfully with communities affected by evictions, without ‘extracting’ knowledge but by co-producing it in a collective form that trespass the remit of the neoliberal academia we live in. This is a wonderful, timely and so important book, coming from a Roma woman and a group of feminist activists that have fought hard to bring it to the fore. If you are in Romania, enjoy the launches (see the poster below). Otherwise, just stay tuned for the English version.

Michele Lancione, University of Sheffield

August 2019

Proofreading the manuscript

The team has completed the work on the book supported by the Antipode grant. We have written a short intro; completed the work on Nicoleta’s diary; wrote a comprehensive essay on restitutions, a guide on what to do if you are evicted, and a photo-essay on the Vulturilor case.

One of our comrades has also completed the first round of proofreading, by hand, on a manuscript that is around 170 A4 pages when printed. The book is now in the hands of our joint publishers (Hecate and IDEA), who will take care of editing, offsetting, printing and distribution.

We will soon start to work on the English translation of the book and look around for an international publisher to carry this forward. We hope to launch the Romanian version of the Jurnal in October in Bucharest. Stay tuned!

May 2019

Book progress

Action-Protest for the right to housing in Bucharest, October 2014

Action-Protest for the right to housing in Bucharest, October 2014 (photo: Lancione)

Our project is advancing: the book manuscript is almost ready and looking great!

After the workshop that we did in autumn in Cluj, we have continued to work on the Guide to prevent and limit evictions. We researched the current legislation, the practices of local authorities, the housing and social protection laws that promise the right to housing (which should be better implemented in order to actually ensure this too often refused right). Our guide is ready and, in the follow-up of the workshop, already informed the Romanian national network The Block for Housing.

The wonderful “core” diary of Nicoleta, transcribed and edited by Carolina, is ready. It was an amazing work and it will be a precious archive of our struggle and solidarity. We already prepared the photo essay that supports the text and offers a visual memory of the Vulturilor 50 struggle – the struggle of a community and the wider struggle for housing justice. We are now finalizing the introduction of the book and thinking about its design, size, cover, etc.

Speaking of which, we are also happy that two independent Romanian radical publishers (IDEA and Hecate) are joining forces to publish this work. This is excellent news because it will bring the book to the right places and to wider audiences.

What comes next for us besides the logistics (page layout, proofreading, etc.): a public presentation of the project and the book, in Berlin in June, with the occasion of the European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and to the City bi-annual meeting.

April 2019

Project presentation at the AAG

AbdouMaliq Simone discussing the launch of the RHJ and our Antipode project at the AAG 2019 in Washington, DC

AbdouMaliq Simone discussing the launch of the RHJ and our Antipode project at the AAG 2019 in Washington, DC (photo: McElRoy)

At the AAG in Washington, DC, Michele Lancione and Veda Popovici presented the Antipode Foundation Scholar-Activist Project Award-supported “How the Roma are Fighting Back: A Diary and Guide for Resistance Against Restitutions and Forced Evictions”. The presentation took place in a session dedicated to the launch of the new Radical Housing Journal (www.radicalhousingjournal.org). Lancione and Popovici narrated how FCDL and the Community of Vulturilor 50 worked together in the constitution of a shared struggle, and of a shared platform for action, which started with the resistance camp and continued throughout the last five years. The book supported by the Antipode Foundation is just one last iteration of a number of shared projects, including direct actions, the community blog (www.jurnaldinvulturilor50.org), the documentary film A Inceput Ploaia / It Started Raining (www.ainceputploaia.com), collective research and organizing, political theatre and more.

The audience responded with excitement to the presentation of the project, highlighting the importance of grassroots scholarship and methodologies that effectively bring academics and activists to work together for political purposes. In his discussion, AbdouMaliq Simone praised FCDL’s efforts in this sense and the making of the project too.

March 2019

Horizontal solidarities: presenting the project in a squat in Rome

Nicoleta Visan joining the discussion with the comrades in Rome via Facebook messenger. Nicoleta was speaking from the homeless shelter she lives in Bucharest

Nicoleta Visan joining the discussion with the comrades in Rome via Facebook messenger. Nicoleta was speaking from the homeless shelter she lives in Bucharest (photo: Lancione)

In later March in Rome at the Casal Boccone Occupato resiste e insiste squat we had a powerful exchange Romania-Italy on racism, evictions and housing justice.

We screened A Inceput Ploaia and presented the Antipode book, and then had a debate with the comrades of Blocchi Precari Metropolitani, the Comitato Case Popolari Tufello, occupanti di Colle Salario and Metropoliz Lab.

The Frontul Comun pentru Dreptul la Locuire was represented by Michele Lancione and Nicoleta (from the Vulturilor 50 community), who chatted with us via messenger, answering questions from the comrades of Rome and invited all to continue to resist and fight for the right to housing and the city. Mady Gavrilescu – a Romanian activist living in Italy, treated with expulsion from the country due to her activism in Roma – was there and we expressed our solidarity for her fight #DajeMada

It was a powerful exchange, which we hope it is going to be just the start of a series of collaborations and common fights. These spaces of encounter are possible only via mixing academic and activist work in ways that are not dictated by the scholars involved, but are aligned with the grassroots politics at play in the context of action.

Thanks Mady Gavrilescu for the hospitality and Margherita Grazioli for organizing!

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Workshop with Housing Activists in Cluj, Romania

Blog post by Michele Lancione (Urban Institute, University of Sheffield) 15 November 2018

The first workshop of the Antipode Foundation Scholar-Activist Project Award managed by Michele Lancione (UI) together with Nicoleta Vișan, Carolina Vozian, Ioana Florea, Erin McElroy and Veda Popovici (members of the Bucharest-based grassroots organisation FCDL, of which Michele is also part) took place in Cluj-Napoca on the 15th of November. The project supported by the Antipode Foundation aims at producing a grassroots diary and guide (in Romanian and English) to inspire resistance and organising in Roma communities facing forced evictions in Eastern Europe and beyond. This project is a continuation of a number of other FCDL interventions, including the online diary of the Vulturilor community (who fought for their right to housing in 2014-16; https://jurnaldinvulturilor50.org) and the first documentary around housing restitution and related displacements in Bucharest (https://www.ainceputploaia.com). It also expands upon some activities and campaigns that FCDL has been organising in several Romanian cities (thanks to a broader alliance called BLOC) and Europe (with the Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City).

The workshop saw the participation of a number of activists coming from several Romanian cities, belonging to different grassroots groups including FCDL, E-romnja, Căși sociale ACUM!, and the BLOC. The objective of this first meeting was to establish a clear plan regarding the writing of the “guide” that will complete the book alongside the historical introduction on restitutions/evictions and Nicoleta’s extended diary. Participants discussed the need to have a guide that will speak about evictions and strategies of resistance to different constituencies. After a number of ideas and experiences were circulated and discussed, an agreement was reached and a plan for action established. The guide will contain three main parts: one with hands-on strategies of resistance targeted at evictees according to a number of housing and displacement typologies; another for activists; and a third for journalists that would like to write about evictions without reproducing stereotypical discourses. The material will be based on the knowledge and experiences accumulated by FCDL and cognate groups in the past years of direct action and radical thinking.

UI blog post

Beyond the guide, the printed book will be based around Nicoleta’s extended diary of struggle and resistance against eviction, contextualised through the intersectional history of housing struggles in the country. Carolina and Nicoleta already started their work on the diary and some excerpts were discussed at the meeting. All the participants were extremely excited by the quality and power of Nicoleta’s writing (some of which, in Romanian, can be read here) which will prove for an excellent read for activists and communities facing housing displacement in and beyond Romania. At the meeting it was also agreed that Veda will write a first draft of the book introduction and that other members of the team (Michele, Ioana, Erin and other members of FCDL) will tackle the remaining tasks, including commenting on drafts, proofreading, liaising with publishers and translating the book into English (which will then pitched to an international publisher).

The team working on the book is planning to have the printed Romanian version by summer 2019. The volume will be used in workshops with communities facing evictions in Romania and Europe. The project goal is to increase the level of politicisation and awareness of racially dispossessed Roma communities, thereby enabling future resistance against displacement.

Re-posted from https://urbaninstitute.group.shef.ac.uk/workshop-with-housing-activists-in-cluj-romania-antipode-award-workshop-cu-activistii-locativi-din-cluj-romania-premiul-antipode/