“CONSENSUS AND CONFLICT: ORAL HISTORIES OF CHRISTIANIA”
A public talk on the famed squatters’ community in Denmark
and the SPRING 2011 OPEN HOUSE for the
Oral History Master of Arts Program (OHMA). Click for details.
WHO: Oral historian and former squatter Amy Starecheski talks about Christiania. Staff will be on hand to talk with prospective students about the Oral History Master of Arts (OHMA) program!
WHEN: Thursday, March 24, 2011, 6:30-8:00pm.
WHERE: Columbia University, Schermerhorn Building, Room 754. Enter campus at 116th Street, at either Broadway or Amsterdam. MAP
AMY STARECHESKI WRITES: I had always wanted to go to Christiania, a squatted neighborhood of one thousand people in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is world-famous among anarchists, utopianists, punk rockers and squatters. The residents have now occupied 85 acres of downtown land for almost forty years: raising children, creating art, running businesses, building homes and making all of their decisions by consensus. Since the election of a conservative government in 2001, they have been under increasing pressure to legalize and “normalize” their community. In the summer of 2010, I had the opportunity to be the Researcher in Residence there for August. As part of my dissertation research, I have been learning about Lower East Side squatters’ experiences of the legalization of their buildings, and wanted to compare Christianites’ perspectives.
It turns out that almost every Christianite has a story to tell about the recent legalization process. One would expect them to describe the battles with police, the symbolic violence of being forced to number their homes and name their streets, or the ongoing courtroom conflict, and they do. But many of the most vivid stories were about the more private dramas of the internal decision-making process through which Christiania has developed responses to the various legalization proposals of the Danish government. These passionately-told stories quickly caught my attention, and became the focus of my research there. I wondered how Christianites’ use of consensus has shaped their response to pressure from the state. Can consensus be strategic, as recent ethnographic work by David Graeber and historical sociology by Francesca Polletta has argued, or is it just an idealistic, prefigurative holdover from Christiania’s hippie past? At this Oral History Master’s Program workshop, I will engage these questions by sharing excerpts from my oral histories with Christianites.
MORE ABOUT THE PRESENTER: Amy Starecheski is an oral historian, former squatter, and doctoral student in cultural anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center. She co-directs Columbia University’s Oral History Summer Institute. She is now working on dissertation research with former squatters in New York City. If you’re interested in participating in that project, please email amy.starecheski [at] gmail.com.
SPONSORS: This talk is part of the "Oral History Workshop Public Lecture Series," co-sponsored by the Oral History Research Office (OHRO), and the Oral History Master of Arts Program (OHMA). OHMA is supported by the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP).
[Photo of Christiania archives by Amy Starecheski]