CFP: Commoning as Differentiated Publicness

Footprint Issue #16: Commoning as Differentiated Publicness: emerging concepts of the urban and other material realities

In the midst of the present global economic crisis that resulted as a consequence of the financial meltdown of real estate markets in the United States back in 2007, surges of civil unrest and large scale social urban movements alike have become commonplace across the globe. Either as an opposition to authoritative regimes and a demand of political representation (Arab Spring), as an outrage against draconian economic measures that directly affect living conditions of society at large (Los Indignados, Occupy Wall Street, Squares Movement, etc.), or, standing against privatization of public space (the recent uprising in Turkey) what remains undeniable is the rise of a differentiated social attitude of contestation and resistance to the prevailing politico-­economic practices of late capitalism.

Particularly interesting in this are the latent possibilities of emergent forms of social and political subjectivity (Charles Tilly) that could aid in the redefinition of ‘the public’ (Saki Baily, Dougald Hine). Emerging social practices, the so-­called ‘commoning’ practice (Elinor Ostrom) i.e., although not immediately related to the spatial domain yet, have the power to challenge existing frameworks (Antonio Negri, Silvia Frederici) and hence hold the promise of becoming an important factor in the rethinking of the role of civil society in the production of urban space (David Harvey, Stavros Stavrides).

The concept of ‘the public’ has traditionally stood against its other – ‘the private’ – in a binary opposition. If for a good part of the twentieth century the definitions and characteristics of this dichotomy had dominated the leading urban discourse, sustaining a claim to function as a measure to determine the success or failure of urban life. Today it is becoming increasingly clear that the production of urban space largely pertains to the sphere of the private, especially in terms of monopolization. In the absence of an operative concept of the public, it is not only relevant but also timely to investigate the implications – theoretical and pragmatic—of the erosion and systematic privatization of the public sphere on urban space. But perhaps more importantly is paramount to reveal and theorize those emergent socio-­spatial practices and movements that by claiming a right to the city, challenge this phenomenon, rejecting institutionalized forms of publicness, thus pointing towards alternatives for more democratic and autonomous forms of urban life.

Arguably, the rising contestatory socio-­spatial practices that we are witnessing today are based not on understanding of the public, properly speaking, but on concepts of ‘the common’, which rescript the public – and hence the private –, within the current paradigm of crisis. Hence, the question of ‘common’ emerges as a direct result of rethinking the meaning of the public/private dichotomy in light of developing forms and relationships through notions of co-­habitation, co-production, a variety of geo-­political ecologies and new forms of citizenry. What new forms of [urban] citizenry are possible and what type of legitimacy would this present? Within which political strategies and practices could self-organized movements act as agents, in favor or against urban spatial initiatives? And how would these agents maintain their autonomy when involved in actions, which require multiple scale negotiations deviating from the norm of conventional or participatory organizational structures?

Footprint seeks full papers (6000-8000 words) which focus and question possible conceptual and theoretical reinterpretations of ‘common’ and ‘public’ as part of the present paradigm of (urban) crisis. The papers should aim to develop levels of critique at both concepts and possible reinterpretations of either notions in light of questioning future tendencies, developmental trends and other material realities. Although case studies may be invoked, they will remain peripheral to the core argument. These articles will be subjected to a blind peer-review process. Shorter papers (‘review articles’ of 2000-4000 words) focusing on case studies can be submitted for a pre-review selection by the editors – the authors of review articles should contact the editors with a short summary of their proposals in advance of the offic ial deadline for complete papers. Please communicate with the editors via the emails h.sohn[at]tudelft.nl and g.j.b.bruyns[at]tudelft.nl and cc editors[at]footprint.org

Deadline for complete papers: 10 January 2014.

Heidi Sohn, Gerhard Bruyns (Editors) & Stavros Kousoulas (assistant editor)

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