Making space for free subjects: Squatting, resistance, and the possibility of ethics

Steph Grohmann


Anthropologists working on ethics have emphasized the importance of freedom for the becoming of ethical subjects. While some have therefore aligned themselves with the later work of Foucault, his earlier work has been identified as part of a “science of unfreedom” antithetical to the study of ethics. In this article, I suggest that the “early Foucault” can nevertheless be relevant for the anthropology of ethics, specifically by looking at contexts where freedom is not a given, but has to be actively created through the overcoming of conditions of unfreedom. Drawing on Faubion’s discussion of ethical subject positions, as well as Foucault’s work on disciplinary architectures, I discuss how subject positions, ethical and otherwise, are also and especially produced through practices of ordering material and symbolic space. Different socio-spatial orders can therefore either be designed to impede the flourishing of free ethical subjects, or to facilitate it.


ethics, subject position, space and place, territoriality, squatting, homelessness

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/701113