Experimental Geographies

"There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no-one shall go hungry any more" – Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (1974: 156)

Producing the Urban Commons

This may be of interest to some. It is a CFP for a session that I’m co-organizing with Colin McFarlane and Gordon MacLeod for the International Critical Geography Conference in August 2011. While the official deadline is tomorrow, we can accept late abstracts until early next week.

FINAL CFP: ‘Producing the Urban Commons’

International Critical Geography conference, Frankfurt, August 16th-20th 2011

Organisers: Colin McFarlane (Durham), Gordon MacLeod (Durham), and Alex Vasudevan (Nottingham)

The idea of the ‘commons’ has seen a resurgence of interest in recent years, whether as an ideal, a set of practices, or a political ethos for assembling more just and equal worlds (e.g. Hardt and Negri, 2009; Linebaugh, 2008). From debates on the ‘idea’ of communism (e.g. Badiou, 2010; Douzinas and Žižek, 2010; Swyngedouw, 2010) or urban cooperatives, or through the development of postcapitalist alternatives to a renewed interest in anarchism, the commons has become a rallying call through which intellectuals and activists are mapping possible futures. The idea of the commons has a strong urban tradition. The emergence of ‘rights to the city’ movements, the elaborations of municipal socialism, and the possibilities of radical participatory budgeting all speak to the constitution of radical alternative urbanisms predicated on practices of making common. In this session, we ask how the notion of the commons might take shape as an explicitly urban project, and how it relates to existing and emerging scholarly debates and activist practices that seek a more just city. We seek to critically interrogate the possibilities and limits of the commons, and consider how it might figure as a counterpoint to the intensification of urban enclosure internationally. In doing so, we aim to examine the possibilities that are opened up, or indeed closed down, by the commons in relation to translocal politics and solidarities. We seek papers that engage with one or more of the following themes, although contributions need not be limited to these parameters:

  • Reclaiming the city for the commons
  • The commons and the radical urban imagination
  • Activism and the production and/or reinvention of the urban commons
  • Urban social movements and the commons
  • The possibilities disclosed or delimited by the commons for translocal movements
  • Potentiality, the commons and radical urban futures
  • Urban informality and the prospect of the commons
  • Theorizing the urban commons (theoretical approaches to the commons from Marx to Negri)
  • The geography of the urban commons
  • Commoning, composition and assemblage in the city
  • The limits of the urban commons as idea, practice and/or activism

Please send a title and abstract by Friday January 7th to the organizers: Colin McFarlane (colin.mcfarlane@durham.ac.uk), Gordon MacLeod (gordon.macleod@durham.ac.uk), and Alex Vasudevan (alexander.vasudevan@nottingham.ac.uk). The session is part of the ‘Oppositional Struggles Worldwide’ strand of the ICGC organized by Andy Cumbers, David Featherstone and Rebecca Ryland.


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