That Pruijt became the Dutch expert on squatting is not entirely accidental. “At the end of the 1970s, it was really normal for students to live in a squat. I did it too”, explains Pruijt in his office on the fifteenth floor of the Mandeville building. “When I went on holiday to New York in 1983, there were loads of homeless people sleeping outside the building in which I stayed. There were also so many buildings empty at that time. I wondered why that was: did they try to suppress squatting, or was it simply an unknown phenomenon there?”

“When I later started work as a sociologist, I wrote an article in which I compared the New York squatter movement – which actually did exist – with the one in the Netherlands. Such an international comparison had never previously been done. The article has been cited 56 times; it is my most-cited article. And I’m actually a specialist in labour and organisation.”


When the discussion regarding the squatting ban started in 2003, Pruijt was called by the ANP (national press agency). “I was shocked. Mostly, because a topic I was writing about could possibly be banned.”

As soon as Pruijt had recovered from the initial shock, he discovered that he had become the Netherlands’ squatting specialist. All journalists called him if they wanted to know about squatting. “It led to appearances on the radio, participation in the TV programme Uitgesproken VARA and all kinds of articles in newspapers, including even The Guardian. “And I’m actually really publicity-shy. I have never had any media training and I come across badly. Even though I found it important, it really wasn’t something I wanted. The funny thing was that when the inspection committee came to measure our department’s media impact, I was the only one who had achieved any attention from foreign media with a sociological topic.”

Artists and Roma

Pruijt visits congresses from the Squatting Europe Kollective (SQEK) every year, a European network of researchers studying squatting. “These are held in a different squat every year. We’ve been to Barcelona, Rome, Madrid, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. We’re also always taken on tours of special squats in the city. That’s usually the high point.”

The Metropoliz in Rome made a lasting impression. “It’s a former salami factory where artists live. There’s also a really trendy café there. When another part of the factory was demolished, the Roma families living there had to move in with the artists. This proved a fantastic arrangement: the Roma women cook in the café, the men have a metal sorting area. And the artists and the Roma, they all get on really well.”

Squatting will never end

Squatting in the Netherlands appears to have reached its peak in the 1980s, but it will never end, said Pruijt. “There will always be empty buildings and a housing shortage. So there will always be squatting. It still happens a lot in countries such as Spain and Italy. And for a researcher, there is always an interesting story behind it.”