Occupied Infrastructure

When and Where

Tuesday, January 22, 2019 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Jackman Humanities Building
170 St. George Street


Benjamin Fogarty-Valenzuela


Benjamin Fogarty-Valenzuela
Princeton University

Students once hopped over the fence to skip school, but on 8 April 2016, dozens jumped the fence to get into school. Fifty-five young Brazilians between the ages of 16 and 21 set up camp, vowing to run the public school autonomously until the government met their demands. While media and government observers tagged these students as “vandals” and “idlers,” thestudents made themselves at home, quickly fixing the school’s kitchen, classrooms, switchboards and water pumps. Rather than destroy the state, these young students occupied its infrastructure. This school in Rio de Janeiro’s Zona Norte was not an isolated incident. Students occupied the infrastructure of some 1,200 other schools in Brazil. And so it is the occupation of infrastructure and its pedagogical possibilities that this presentation engages, exploring the political transformations (be they material or imagined) that emerged through this protest. For while students mopped hallways, cleaned bathrooms, painted over graffiti, and used unopened textbooks for public teach-ins, they also set the terms for a new moment in political claim-making by placing themselves at the intersection of symbolic rupture (occupation) and material regeneration (infrastructure). Rather than walk out, students set up camp. One occupier said it best when she announced: “We have overstayed our time in class to guarantee our class in time.”