The atmospheric person: value, experiment and ‘making neighbours’ in Madrid’s popular assemblies


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Type of work: Article (academic)


Anthropology | Participation | Politics and Political Science




The Occupy movement in Spain, locally known as the May 15 movement (15M), singularly developed throughout 2011 into a network of local neighborhood “popular assemblies.” Over one hundred assemblies cropped up in Madrid alone. This article explores the conceptual and infrastructural work invested by the assemblies in the production of a particular experience of neighborhood (barrio). The barrio has become the centerpiece of the assemblies’ political and geographical imagination. We offer here an ethnographic account of how the work of assembling is constitutive of a new experience of relationality, which assembly-goers refer to as “making neighbors.” One makes neighbors through processes of deambulation and through an investment in the rhythmic and atmospheric production of space. The neighbor fares thus as an atmospheric person. Further, in this guise it has become both a model of and a model for political citizenship expressive of a right to the city. People’s exploration of the question, “What is a neighbor?” offers an ethnographic case study on the invention of novel forms of social relations and political values in an urban commons—on the rise of the urban persona of the neighbor as a social-cum-political experimenter. Value, then, as an experimental form.