RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

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377 From co-production to alternative futures (2): Creating commons, creating ‘other value’
Affiliation Geographies of Justice Research Group
Convenor(s) Victoria Habermehl (University of Leeds, UK)
Andre Pusey (University of Leeds, UK)
Chair(s) Andre Pusey (University of Leeds, UK)
Timetable Friday 29 August 2014, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Room Skempton Building, Room 165
Session abstract From co-production to alternative futures: social movements, common(s) and ‘other values’

“On one side, a social force called capital pursues endless growth and monetary value. On the other side, other social forces strive to rearrange the web of life on their own terms” (De Angelis, 2007).

This session aims to bring together critical geographers and researchers from affiliated disciplines to explore the contradictions, tensions and potentialities of co-production, in exploring ‘other values’, the common(s) and social change. De Angelis (2007) identifies the way ‘other values’ are created through social movements engaging in resistive practices, the co-production of alternatives, and the way in which they resist, subvert and/or subsist with the capitalist extraction of value from our activity.

Related to the co-production of these ‘other values’ is the defence of existing and collective construction of new heterogeneous forms of common(s). Geographers have been increasingly examining commons and commoning through work ranging from research into ‘actually existing commons’ (Eizenberg, 2011), such as the ‘urban commons’ (Jeffrey et al. 2012; Chatterton, 2010; Hodkinson, 2012; Chatterton et al, 2013) to more abstract theoretical and conceptual engagements (Hardt & Negri, 2009; Jeffrey et al, 2011). However, whilst many of these debates highlight the potentiality of the common(s) as part of wide-ranging social change, as George Caffentzis has examined, commons are not inherently anti-capitalist, and are being increasingly utilized as part of a strategy of austerity led ‘neoliberalism plan b’ (2010).

Linked Sessions From co-production to alternative futures (1): Creating cracks: value, commons and alternative economy
From co-production to alternative futures (3): praxis and reflection.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2014@rgs.org
Dublin's independent spaces: politics and practices of everyday commoning
Michael O'Broin (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland)
Patrick Bresnihan (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland)
In Dublin there are many needs and desires which are not met, or excluded, by the pattern of high rent, the commodification of social/cultural life, and the regulation of public space. Against this dynamic, Dublin has seen a number of experiments in urban commoning: people collectively finding ways of opening up space in order to do what they want. This might be as simple as wanting a space to work, to make food or to show films. These spaces are usually run on an informal, ad hoc basis and tend to arise from people’s frustration with the exclusionary nature of the city rather than from any explicitly political opposition to the neoliberal city. These new urban commons are thus characterized by particular groups of people devising practical ways of escaping the forms of 'enclosure' which limit what can happen in the city.

We participated in many of these spaces, in large part because they allowed us affordable access to cultural and social life, but also because they allowed us to organise some of our own autonomous education initiatives. We subsequently became interested in thinking about these spaces as a kind of urban commons, as the direct production and organisation of urban life by particular groups of people. We also became interested in the ways in which participants in these spaces responded to the various challenges they faced, particularly repeated evictions due to breeches of fire safety and other regulations. This paper takes a ‘militant research’ approach to explore the potentials and limitations of these experiments in urban production and organisation.
From Crisis to Commoning: An Examination of Socio-Spatial Relations in Cooperative Mobile Home Communities
Elsa Noterman (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)
Caught between the dual crises of declining economic opportunity and diminishing public assistance, more and more people are organizing themselves to save their communities. Through this collective activity, people are increasingly acting and owning in common – leading them to consider new ways of conceptualizing and enacting their communities that go beyond resisting threats to their livelihoods. In one such example, residents in rural trailer parks (or, as they are known to members, ‘manufactured housing communities’) located in the United States are setting up their communities as limited-equity or nonprofit housing cooperatives. They are doing so largely in response to the threats of eviction and displacement, as land is sold from beneath their homes. The social and political processes involved in co-owning, co-managing and co-habitating these newly formed ‘commons’ are messy and often paradoxical. However, community members are individually and collectively producing new modes of thinking about who they are, how they understand community, and where they situate themselves in relation to larger national and international forces. It is the ongoing commoning activity – the “doing” of the commons (Linebaugh 2010) – in the context of three cooperative manufactured housing communities that I examine in this paper. Specifically, I consider how the commoning in these communities, which initially emerged from a crisis of privatization, can dislocate “discourses of capitalocentrism,” produce ‘other values’, and contribute to a “world of economic difference” beyond the capitalist/anti-capitalist binary (Gibson-Graham 2008:11).
New Cross Commoners: productive tensions
Lawrence Dodd (Independent)
Alice McHugh (Independent)
Bianca Elzenbaumer (Independent)
In our contribution, we want to collectively reflect on the knowledges and values produced around the common(s) through our activities as New Cross Commoners. In reflecting on the activities we have engaged in since February 2013 in our South-London neighbourhood, we particularly want to focus on the role the tensions running throughout our collective play in the production of knowledges and values and on the methods we use in order to allow potentialities to emerge from them.

The productive tensions we want to tie our reflections to can roughly be grouped in three areas: a) the openness, and thus constant mutation, of the collective;
b) the precarious working and living conditions of most, if not all, of the people involved;
c) the fears related to stepping out of known and standardised modes of acting and relating to each other.

To wrestle with the dynamics that emerge around these three areas, we have so far attempted a series of reflective and experiential approaches, such as engaging with texts on the commons (e.g. De Angelis, Federici, Caffentzis) in non-academic ways, using workshops as triggers to common our needs and desires and, more recently, organising a monthly people’s kitchen with an anti-gentrification ethos. These, and more, activities have proven to be important elements to engage not only with what is going on in the neighbourhood, but to break out of our individualised lives while experimenting with noncapitalist value practices and their implications for our everyday.

Having said this, contributing to the conference is for us a way to take the time to collectively formulate our thoughts and experiences in order to critically share them with other commoners and to grow together.

New Cross Commoners is an open group of people learning from the neighbourhood and from each other ways of collectivising skills and resources. The group is based in the area of New Cross in South London.http://newxcommoners.wordpress.com/
Collective cultural co-production to pursue alternative urban futures. The case of Macao in Milan
Chiara Valli (Uppsala University, Sweden)
The role of cultural and artistic production in city making has been studied from diverse angles, either supporting or criticizing the argument that the presence of creative and cultural workers would booster cities´ economic growth. However, few studies have looked at how these self-same ´creatives´ can engage in redrawing and reshaping their cities socially and politically as conscious agents of change.

In ‘The Art of Rent’ (2001, 2012), David Harvey emphasizes the political and subversive potential of cultural producers, hypothesizing that the crescendo of the strumentalization of culture and art for profit reasons and territorial marketing could “lead a segment of the community concerned with cultural matters to side with a politics opposed to multinational capitalism and in favor of some more compelling alternative based on different kinds of social and ecological relations”. However, these kinds of mobilisations have rarely been addressed by empirical research.

With my research I aim to contribute to unpack our understanding of the contemporary phenomenon of movements of the so-called ´creative´ or ´knowledge-workers´ that embrace urban struggles. I explore actual practices of contemporary cultural and urban movements drawing on the empirical ethnographic study of ´Macao´ movement in Milan. Macao is a new form of urban social movement initially originated within the struggles of creative and cultural workers that aims to challenge neoliberal cultural production and neoliberal urban politics. Macao is proposing collective co-production of culture as the strategy to pursue alternative futures for the city. The overarching objective is in fact to introduce alternative models of urban spaces management and cultural production, contributing to the local and national discourse on the acknowledgement and management of the commons.
The Logic of Homogeneity in Radical Social Movements
Nazima Kadir (Independent Insight Professional)
My presentation is based on my doctoral fieldwork in which I lived and worked as a squatter in a squatters community in Amsterdam for 3.5 years, which resulted in my anthropological PhD, "The Autonomous Life? Paradoxes of Hierarchy and Authority in the Squatters Movement in Amsterdam."

In this presentation, I will explore the logic behind the following contradictory dynamics: Why is it that groups fighting for social justice, the rights of immigrants, for racial/gender equality, and who are actively anti-fascist are ultimately homogeneous in their composition? Why do people who value diversity produce homogeneity? Why do people who consider themselves globally aware and internationalist and yet ultimately, produce a homogenous environment? Why aren't migrants from the global south visibly part of these movements? Why do people in these movements tend to look the same, both in terms of race and ethnicity, but also in how they dress and their way of being in the world?
I will present analytical findings that emerge from ethnographic research that theorizes the underlying logics that drive these contradictions followed by an ethnographic example.
Towards a production of knowledge from the movements for the movements: the experience of 'Grupo Popular Pesquisa em Ação' in Rio de Janeiro
Grupo Popular Pesquisa em Ação members (Grupo Popular Pesquisa em Ação, Brazil)
Since June 2013 Brazil has been place of several, unexpected mass protests with millions of people in the streets: simmering tensions within the society and grassroots work done by several groups in contrasting neoliberal choices of the government, ignited an upraise following another increase of the bus fare. The protests were mainly sat on an urban context and are still ongoing.
Rio de Janeiro has been one of the main stages of these protests; this is a city in transformation for the coming FIFA world cup (2014) and Olympics (2016), crossed by important social problems, phenomena of gentrification, evictions, attacks to the indigenous populations and increasing income gap.
The literature on the uprising developed so far (e.g. Maricato 2013; Fernandes & De Freitas Roseno 2013) is incomplete and even incorrect, being work of scholars not directly connected with the movement, but observing it externally.
Recognising this gap and the necessity of the movement to answer internal questions, the group 'Grupo Popular Pesquisa em Ação' (GPPA) was born, taking inspiration from the work of the Authonomos Geograpies Collective (Chatterton, Hodkinson, Pickerill 2010). In its manifesto (GPPA 2014) the group defines itself as horizontal, not affiliated to any political party, anti-capitalist, non-hierarchical, anti-fascist, anti-sexist and revolutionary, united by the principle of building knowledge free of any constraints by the academia and by the capital. It aims to break the wall between the University and the social realm, in order to make the supposedly hidden social subjects visible actors in the construction of knowledge. It recognises the importance of an autonomous knowledge, collectively constructed in daily practice and in the street, fruit of social movements and popular struggles. Research is seen as a way to develop mechanisms that help social transformations, developing methods and tools to support groups and movements: research comes from the movement and goes back into the hands of the movement.
This paper, written cooperatively by the activist/scholars that had the chance to be part of the movement and to co-found the group, aims at presenting the idea of this group and of some of its activities built together with resistance movements.