Veranstaltungshinweis | Urban commons

Moving beyond state and market

Con­fe­rence Announcement

urban landscape ccSep­tem­ber 27th & 28th, 2013, Humboldt-Universität zu Ber­lin, Germany

Georg Sim­mel Cen­ter for Metro­po­li­tan Stu­dies Urban Rese­arch Group 

Urban space is a com­mons: simul­ta­neously a sphere of human coope­ra­tion and nego­tia­tion and its pro­duct. Today, we need to under­stand urban com­mo­n­ing, the crea­tion and main­ten­ance of urban com­mons, as a dialec­tical rela­ti­onship bet­ween state and capi­tal (e.g. Hardt and Negri 2009). Rather than positing com­mons as beyond state and mar­ket (e.g. Helf­rich 2012), this con­fe­rence asks how to move there. In par­ti­cu­lar, we wish to scru­ti­nize how a focus on com­mons might advance (or preempt) exis­ting or emer­gent urban struggles.

Under­stan­ding urban space as a com­mons means that the much sought-after pro­duc­tivity of the city pre­ce­des rather than results from stra­te­gies of the state and capi­tal. It chal­len­ges assump­ti­ons of urba­niza­tion as capital-driven (e.g. Har­vey 2006). This idea reso­na­tes with a range of recent urban social move­ments, from the Arab Spring and the occupy move­ment, to the “Right to the City” alli­ance, and count­less initia­ti­ves see­king to “Reclaim the City”. Initia­ti­ves to create “com­mons”, such as net­works of small entre­pre­neurs, sub­cul­tu­ral pro­du­cers, initia­ti­ves offe­ring direct ser­vices to the mar­gi­na­li­zed and urban gar­de­ning, are wel­co­med and even faci­li­ta­ted by govern­ments in order to (re-)valorize urban space and les­sen the impacts of eco­no­mic restruc­tu­ring. Howe­ver, at the same time, the crea­tive and repro­duc­tive poten­tial of the urban com­mons is under­mined by new attempts to exploit and con­trol (i.e. enclose) them, which are exa­cer­ba­ted by aus­te­rity politics.

In this con­text, this sym­po­sium seeks to explore the role and posi­tion of com­mons in urban rese­arch and open the debate to con­tri­bu­ti­ons from all disci­plines. The con­fe­rence is divi­ded into 6 panels, as follows:

  1. Agency of urban com­mons: What stra­te­gies, tools and methods do urban com­mons employ to reach their goals and meet their needs? What role do they play in sub­jec­tivity pro­duc­tion, urban dwel­lers‹ empower­ment and actual social and spa­tial change in the urban realm?
  2. Theo­ri­zing the tran­si­tion: Com­mons wit­hin and against capi­ta­lism: How can com­mons be theo­ri­zed as a social space that is simul­ta­neously situa­ted wit­hin as well as ori­en­ted against capi­ta­list social rela­ti­ons? Does it even make sense to dis­tin­gu­ish “urban” and “non-urban” commons?
  3. The city and the sover­eign: How do “commons”-oriented initia­ti­ves navi­gate bet­ween coopta­tion and cri­mi­na­liza­tion? How do the sub­jec­tivi­ties that they engen­der relate to emer­gent forms of governance?
  4. Spa­tia­liza­tion of the digi­tal com­mons: How does urban space relate to the digi­tal com­mons? In what ways can we see the strugg­les for digi­tal com­mons con­nec­ted to urban space? To what extent can we under­stand urban space as spa­tia­li­zed digi­tal commons?
  5. Urban com­mons and public ser­vices: What are the poli­ti­cal per­spec­tives of intro­du­cing a com­mons per­spec­tive into (muni­ci­pal) govern­ment? The con­crete example to be dis­cus­sed in this panel is recent initia­ti­ves to defend public real estate and infrastructure.
  6. Gentrification’s tra­gic pioneers: Vic­tims of enclo­sure of the com­mons?: How do strugg­les to pre­serve urban com­mons against eco­no­mic enclo­sures of the city (i.e. gen­tri­fi­ca­tion) dif­fer from state attempts to fos­ter dyna­mics of com­mons gene­ra­tion (as a basis for future exploitation)?

Regis­tra­tion until 16th of Sep­tem­ber 2013 at gsz.urbancommons@gmail.com.

To defray refresh­ment costs, a regis­tra­tion fee of 20€ (10€ for stu­dents and low-income) is requested.

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