Using archives created by squatters themselves, documenting their evanescent experiments, Vasudevan demonstrates that 'the squat was a place of collective world-making: a place to express anger and solidarity, to explore new identities and different intimacies, to experience and share new feelings, and to defy authority and live autonomously' ... Vasudevan’s argument is compelling and supported by impressive research...[he] shows how the occupation of vacant properties became 'a radical urban social movement,' shaping the recent development of many cities. ... As Vasudevan’s scholarly and illuminating study shows, for today’s squatters as for their predecessors, the urgent issue of housing is part of a broader concern. For squatting – in its radical incarnation – is about the future of our cities and about how all of us, as citizens, have a right to remake them into fairer, more humane places in which to live.
What is initially presented as a scrupulously detailed, thought-provoking study quickly reveals itself to be an exposé of the costs of gentrification — as well as a guide for people around the world who face the struggle for affordable housing ... Readers may grow tired of the number of details Vasudevan musters, but they build a powerful argument; these squatters, one feels, have long been on the front lines of a battle that now involves ever larger numbers of people. The Autonomous City shows determined people living creatively, meeting the challenges of modern urban life by creating a new and arguably necessary culture, politics, and mode of existence ... The Autonomous City is a resource for all urban dwellers.
The conditions described in Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City are not dissimilar to those Vasudevan invokes as the inspiration for squatters in the mid-20th century: craven landlords who refuse to make repairs; exploitation; families who are forced to stay with friends or relatives and bounce from unlivable apartment to unlivable apartment because they can’t afford rent ... On the flip side, many of the squats that survive have been too successful for their own good. Vasudevan is not as descriptive as the middle-class voyeur would like; instead of taking the reader inside an abandoned building, he reiterates that the politics of going there are radical. While this makes for an academic reading experience, it might also be the most responsible way for an outsider to approach the practice.