Archive for April, 2015

Commons Convivium — 29th April 2015 — School of Social Sciences, University of East London

April 13, 2015

The Centre for Social Justice and Change
(School of Social Science, University of East London)

29th April 2015; 10am-18pm (or thereabout)
University of East London — Docklands Campus — WB.3.02

invites you to the
Commons Convivium

The Latin word “convivium” means a feast, banquet, or party. It is formed by the combination of the prefix con (or com) signifying “with”, (or “together”, “altogether”) and the verb vivere meaning “to live”. The commons are the cultural, natural or produced resources that are shared among groups and communities, as well as governed by these through their self-defined rules and practices. This event is thus a feast of a particular nature, one in which we explore common threads among different lines of thoughts in search of solidarity, sharing, the constitution of new socialities, and overcoming the condition of crisis, any crisis. It is also an opportunity for inter-disciplinary encounters beyond the formalities and alien measures weighing upon daily work of academic labour: hopefully a moment of commoning.

lama convivium

Gargi Bhattacharyya (UEL)
If left to fend for ourselves: thinking about entitlement and equality after austerity

Austerity can be understood as an attempt to change the framing of political life across Europe. In the process, the manner in which the state employs tactics of pre-emptive categorisation and differential entitlement dismantle previous modes of claim-making. This brief discussion will consider the possibility that we are being rendered surplus to requirements, no longer meriting the minimal investments of welfare capitalism. How should we greet such a possibility?

Ruth Brown (UEL)
The commons of the street in Russia

Nowadays, the commons is often the park or the street. I’m interested in the continuing political importance of feet on the street: what is interesting is not so much the use of technology to bring people together (this we would expect), but the continuing desire to come together in common spaces. This only emphasises the importance of coming together common spaces, and makes understanding it more important. I would like to talk briefly about the power of feet on the street in Russia: in the late Soviet era and now when the opposition is killed on the street. About the power of the person with the public placard. When other avenues of expression are closed, the city’s avenues are avenues of expression.

Erika Cudworth (CSJC, UEL)
Posthuman Community in the Edgelands

This paper draws on some of the data from an ethnographic project looking at everyday lives of people with companion dogs. The paper argues that walking with dogs as a routine practice results in the development of posthuman or ‘cross-pack’ communities as dogs and their humans, walk, talk and hang out together in public spaces. These multi-species social formations are dynamic and shifting, convivial and characterised by a tolerance of diversity and practices of care for dogs, for humans and for the creatures and spaces encountered while walking.

Massimo De Angelis (CSJC, UEL)
Pirating food: the case of “Genuino Clandestino” network

In this presentation I will discuss a social system definition of the commons while reviewing the practices and relevance of the Genuino Clandestino network in Italy. This is a network of small farmers and consumers across the country who bypassed organic certification, costing unaffordable money to small farmers and fuelling corruption, with a model that replicate vernacular values of good exchange and build trust between consumers and producers along networks. This model involve consumers and producers into collaborative practices in the decision process of what to produce and price formation as well as the management of markets and control of the boundaries of the networks, thus the overcoming of clear division of roles between producers and consumers.

Giorgia Dona (CMRB, UEL)
‘Communities of protection’ during ethnic violence

Since 1994, a dominant narrative of the Rwandan genocide has evolved, one that is structured around the testimonies of victims and perpetrators. Given that the vast majority of Rwandans do not fit within either of these oppositional social groups, this paper examines the experiences of protectors in terms of ‘communities of protection’, which can be viewed as  a form of commoning during violence. Protection took place with the involvement of more than one protector over the period of the genocide; protection, whether given in public or secretly, was a fact generally known by more than one individual; and the giving and receiving protection was negotiated and re-negotiated over time. In light of its social nature, the paper argues that protection can be viewed as resistance to three components of the genocide: its machinery, its ideology and its divisive objective. This discussion of protection challenges predominant explanations of the genocide that focus on ethnic hate, fear or obedience, and it shows the benefits of researching relations of non-hate, courage and resistance to achieve a greater understanding of socio-political violence and genocide studies.

Rumana Hashem (CMRB, UEL)
Translating knowledge into action: Forming social agency for change and justice through activism beyond the academia

I wish to share my experience in working with groups and communities in London for social movement in the field of BME women’s rights, secularism, fossil-free energy and non-privatisation of public resources. I discuss how our community movements form powerful unions for social change which contribute to create social agency to serve the purpose of commons in all of the above three fields. I present the work of Phulbari Solidarity Group Nari Diganta, London Mining Network and London Roots Collective, which work as pressure groups for social justice, democracy, horizontality and livelihoods in Britain and elsewhere. In presenting my experience in three different fields of activism, I illustrate also how our social movements and activism beyond academia serve to connect southern and northern struggles for social change and justice. I would argue that the community engagement and social movements outside the teaching machine and academic research can be a way for ‘translating knowledge into action’.

Maja Korac (CSJC, UEL)
Movies and Cinemas as the Commons: Movement for the Occupation of Cinemas in Belgrade, Serbia. An alternative narrative of the legacy of Yugoslav self-management system

In a nut shell, I want to talk about this most recent act of civic engagement and politics in a broader context of the role of cinematography and films in Yugoslav socialist past and how it was deeply embedded in both the production of a specific Yugoslav socialist narrative as well its economy. I shall argue that in the light to such history, it is not surprising that the idea of the cinema as the commons is occurring here as the first organised voice to stop privatization. More to the point, I shall link some of the ideas and legacies of YU self-management to the current occupy movement.


Camilla Power (UEL)
Egalitarianism and sustainability: 100,000 years of immediate-return hunter-gatherers. Can we learn lessons from the experts?

Egalitarianism is not dead! Still today tens of thousands of immediate-return foragers live in self-reliant societies based in egalitarian access to the ‘commons’. They may number very few among the world’s 7 billions, but they are remarkable for their durability and stability even in the face of the insults of global capital. They represent the last link to the cultures and societies in which we became human. Can we apply practical lessons from these experts in managing the commons?

Meera Tiwari (UEL, CSJC)                                                                                                                                                                                          Commoning and social sustainability in rural India

This paper explores the conceptualisation of sustainable human development and social sustainability within the Capability approach. The objective of the investigation is to go beyond the interchanging of ‘human needs’ with ‘human capabilities’ in extending the sustainable development premise to the sustainable human development and the social sustainability discourse. The paper grounds the theoretical framework into a Self Help Group model of grassroots development from India. The selected case study provides a conceptual platform to explore the genre of capabilities being deployed towards achieving the objectives. The study further investigates whether such capabilities led models for grassroots development could be the foundation – the basic building blocks for social sustainability and the sustainable human development dialogue.


Juhana Venäläinen (UEL, CSJC / University of Eastern Finland, School of Humanities):
Political ecologies of immaterial commoning: data storage, digital waste, and the limits of the Anthropocene

Networked commons-based peer production, as in Wikipedia or in open source communities, has occasionally been depicted as a revolutionary socio-economic system with fundamental consequences for the future of capitalism. These conceptions are, however, often prone to neglecting the material boundaries of the economy. In a “digitalist” utopia (Pasquinelli 2008), production is portrayed as a pure symbolic exchange, independent of the physical, biological, financial or socio-cultural conditions for its reproduction. With the current growth in the networking infrastructures, it is becoming more obvious that the so-called immaterial economy is tightly connected to the constraints of the finite planet. In my presentation, I will examine the political ecologies of immaterial commoning by focusing on one of its material boundaries: data storage capacity. By following the events and discourses unfolding from the 2011 Thailand floods that caused an unforeseen shock in the data storage markets, I seek to illuminate some more general interlinkages between the practices of immaterial commoning and its material underpinnings.


Richard J White, (Sheffield Hallam University)
Post-capitalism, anarchy, and the geographies of community self-help

Drawing on empirical data drawn from UK household work practices, this paper explores the pervasive geographies of community-self help in a society which tells itself it is “capitalist”. Recognising this ontology of difference and diversity is both empowering and liberating, for as well as providing real spaces of hope and possibility that resist a capitalist logic of exchange, the presence of these “non-capitalist” spaces also offer lines of flight that seek out new visions of work and organisation beyond capitalism.