What makes a biopolitical space?
A discussion with Toni Negri
Toni Negri discusses the significance of urban space for new forms of opposition. The city, he says, is where the "political diagonal" intersects the "biopolitical diagram" – where people's relation to power is most pronounced. Negri's interlocutors are involved in exploring "soft" forms of activism, urban projects that create collectivities on micro, neighbourhood levels. Negri is critical of "soft" forms, however, preferring rupture and revolution over accumulation and gradual change.
Toni Negri: As we have seen in the urban struggles that have recently taken place – I am thinking about the reaction to the closure of the Ungdomshuset social centre in Copenhagen last August, or this incredible thing that happened in Rostock on the margins of the G8 summit last June – the watchword of the European autonomous movements today is "take back the metropolis, take back the city, take back the centre". This has become a widespread rallying cry: these movements, which have begun in the cities, are, from a political point of view, extremely important. Then in February 2007 there was the huge mobilization in Vicenza – this old catholic stronghold – against the expansion of the Nato airbase there. Nato is transferring all its resources for potential military intervention – particularly aimed at the Middle East – to Vicenza and Udine. And this is what people – not only those from the movement, but the city residents in general – refuse. The struggle has thus spread across the board: no-global movements, neighbourhood groups, Catholics, pacifists, ecologists. It is a new urban political activism, a different way of looking at of the city. People are saying: we don't want war established in our cities. Clearly, this has nothing to do with social centres in the form that they take throughout Italy and elsewhere, Christiania in Copenhagen for example. But it is exciting. I believe that something like five hundred people were arrested last summer in Copenhagen. It is a model of resistance. At first there was no desire for provocation or direct confrontation, the protesters were called "pink". But because they were fighting for their space of freedom, they became "black"! What is fundamental is the passage from the idea of constructing countercultural spaces to the idea of active resistance.
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