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The commons, property, and ownership

Suggestions for further discussion

Katharina Bodirsky

The commons are an eminently anthropological topic and have been studied by anthropologists extensively in relation to natural resource management. Such studies on the “traditional commons” were concerned in particular with management of natural

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Don Nonini

This article theorizes the urban commons in the case of the housing commons of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from the 1960s to the present. The making and unmaking of urban commons like housing in Amsterdam can only be understood if urban commons are

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For or against commoning?

Ida Susser

Dedicated to the memory of Sandra Morgen (1950–2016) Photograph courtesy of Robert Hill Long We would like to dedicate this theme section on the commons to Sandra Morgen, who knew she would not live to see her article appear. Sandi fought for

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Incipient “commoning” in defense of the public?

Competing varieties of fiscal citizenship in tax- and spending-related direct democracy

Sandra Morgen and Jennifer Erickson

As the hardships and polarizing inequalities resulting from decades of neoliberal public policies have intensified, “the commons” has emerged as a powerful conceptual framework for an alternative politics that goes beyond the ideological tug

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Commoning in New York City, Barcelona, and Paris

Notes and observations from the field

Ida Susser

community activists have all participated in urban movements ( Castells 2012 ; Juris 2012 ; Nonini 2007 ; Rakopoulos 2014 ; Susser 2006 ). Since cities have become so central in the global economy, the development of urban commons is a central aspect of

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Conceiving the Health Commons

Operationalizing a 'Right' to Health

Sandy Smith-Nonini

In a perusal of literature on ‘the commons’, it is striking how rarely medicine and health services are mentioned as potential commons. Nor is the concept of the commons discussed in medical and health journals, where database searches turn up only the odd article using the term in a title or abstract. This essay evolved as an inquiry into what benefit might be gained from conceiving of a health commons.

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Benjamin Junge

Donald M. Nonini, ed., The global idea of “the commons.”New York: Berghahn Books, 2007, 138 pp., ISBN: 1-845-45485-5.

Jeffrey Juris, Networking futures: The movements against corporate globalization. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008, 400 pp., ISBN: 0822342693.

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The Genetic Commons

Resisting the Neo-liberal Enclosure of Life

Stephen B. Scharper and Hilary Cunningham

The notion of a ‘genetic commons’ is a broad-based, multi-faceted response to a particular constellation of technological, cultural, economic, political, ethical, and legal developments of the past three decades. Prompted principally by advances in biotechnology and the heretofore unprecedented patenting of life forms, the genetic commons movement seeks to critique and resist the commodification and commercialization of ‘nature’ and to establish a cosmological and political space outside of, and protected from, neo-liberal capitalist processes.

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The Fiscal Commons

Tax Evasion, the State, and Commoning in a Catalonian Cooperative

Vinzenz Bäumer Escobar

This article challenges the seemingly inseparable conceptual link between tax and the state by drawing on fieldwork carried out with an anti-capitalist cooperative in Barcelona, where tax evasion went hand in hand with the pooling of common monetary resources used for the creation of semi-public goods managed by non-state actors. Drawing on theoretical insights from the commons, I will put forward the concept of the ‘fiscal commons’ in order to decenter tax as an analytic for making sense of the relation between the state and civil society. In so doing, I will argue that taxes are part of a broader repertoire of financial contributions that people draw on to actively create different fiscal commons that operate alongside and in relation to the state’s tax regime.

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Donald M. Nonini

Marilyn Strathern, in her collection of essays, Commons and Borderlands (2004: 39–40), reflects on interdisciplinary research collaboration and its products in the contemporary British university setting. She points to two opposed pressures on such research. One, seeking “undivided outcomes,” comes from those engaged in interdisciplinary research who see “an object held in common, the joint product, multi-authored, of diverse efforts.” The other comes from those determined to attribute “ownership” as a matter of “undivided origins” to an individual “owner” of the object—its presumed creator—who can be uniquely identified and appropriately awarded, often with legal intellectual property rights in the form of patents or copyrights. While the perspective of researchers connected to the former impetus is one in which several researchers see themselves as bringing their complementary knowledges to bear in an “orientation to a joint project (‘problem solving’, etc.) [which] takes precedence” (ibid.: 48n4), that of the latter requires that they parse out origins to specify how “collaboration can be unpicked to identify the individual person, or the individual team, with whom the origin rests undivided” (ibid.: 40). Both pressures are, in the case of the British academy, very recent. Calls for interdisciplinary research have been articulated over the same period of the past two decades during which new property claims have been made—by universities, by ‘society’, and by for-profit corporations—on intellectual creations in the university milieu.