Commoning and Transition

2018-2019 | Article in Transient Spaces Book
Authored by Melissa Harrison & Eleni Katrini | publication website

Transient Spaces is a curated collection of essays and projects about the impact that mass migration is having on cities around the world. The book examines transience as a force of opportunity and resilience in the design of cities and includes contributions from such notable writers and thinkers as Michael Sorkin and Saskia Sassen. Rahul Mehrotra, Eyal Weizman, and Deen Sharp have reviewed the book and contributed book blurbs. Transient Spaces is edited by Loukia Tsafoulia, Suzan Wines and Samantha Ong. It is published by the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at The City College of New York, ISBN 978-1-7327395-2-9.

Article Abstract: ​Commoning practices, as defined by Linebaugh, are everyday social practices through which citizens co-produce and co-manage the commons while satisfying their basic human needs and rights. The collaborative and actionable nature of commoning builds collective agency, thus allowing people to take control over their lives and achieve goals that they otherwise - individually or through institutional tutelage and support - wouldn’t be able to. During recent socio-economic crises, institutions have increasingly failed to serve the citizens’ needs, and in those cracks commoning practices have emerged and multiplied in order to build collective agency and solidarity. Reflecting on the plethora of commoning practices, we identify transition as the common ground. Rather than accepting the status quo or waiting for changes to trickle down from above, people are collectively transforming their everyday lives, building a sense of autonomy, and prefiguring alternative modes of being and doing. This paper explores three focus areas of transition as they relate to commoning; transient practices and the communities-in-the-making that shape them, transient identities in perpetual becoming, and transient spaces appropriated and transformed in the process. This exploration will be developed based on a format that aims to connect theory - and its radical, utopian imaginaries - with the concrete realities of lived experience, complete with its opportunities and constraints, triumphs and failures. This position - with our ‘heads in the clouds’, gazing towards an emancipatory horizon, and two feet firmly planted on the ground - pushes for a theory that is informed by practice and vice versa. The exploration through theory and experience of these three levels of transition embedded in commoning, will allow us to identify some of the deeply rooted challenges and opportunities and pave the way for an informed optimism, both in theory and practice.

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