Theorizing the Urban Commons
My book Carving out the Commons: Tenant Organizing and Housing Cooperatives in Washington, D.C., out now from the University of Minnesota Press, delves into the theory and practice of the urban commons. The commons are spaces that are both non-commodifed and collectively owned and regulated. Since commons rely on collective labor, a commons is best understood as a social practice, rather than an inert resource. Most of what is known about the commons comes from studies of rural areas -- places with relatively sparse populations and cultural homogeneity. But what happens when we try to common in cities? For some thoughts on this, read my 2015 paper in Antipode, "Working with Strangers in Saturated Space: Reclaiming and Maintaining the Urban Commons." For an overview of recent literature on the urban commons, read my 2017 essay in Urban Studies, "Theorising the Urban Commons: New Thoughts, Tensions, and Paths Forward." Pictured at right is another instance of the urban commons: the BAT cultural center in Durban, South Africa.