Tomas Marcinkevičius - "Autonomy" in (a Couple Cities of) Central and Eastern Europe: 1)...what? 2) are we really that into it?
Every once in a while, in the politically claustrophobic context of (a couple) CEE cities, conscious spaces of something different appear that go by "social/autonomous centres" or "common spaces" according to tradition and for lack of better local terms. The enthusiasts see them as experiments of meaningful separation, radicalisation, and collective power-gardening. The sceptics see them as expression of blindly imported Western political practices, unwilling contributions to gentrification, and often exhausting exercises of clueless, comfortable, separation from those one should be solidarising with. Most participants (from personal experience) see them as a mixture of both. Hybrid, ephemeral, precarious, and a little lonely, such spaces seem to always operate in the background of confusion and failure; while also having a way of leaving both imaginary and very real traces of "autonomy." Besides lofty theory, the presentation will be based on personal experience ("participant-observer") in and conversations with the participants of Žalias Namas squat (2015) and Emma social centre (est. 2016 and still running) in Kaunas, as well as glimpses of Prague's autonomous "scene" shadowed by the death of the squat Klinika.