Extracting the Commons

Postad i: Uncategorized den 20 March, 2017 av Martin Fredriksson

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We are happy to present the first article from the commons and commodities project. It is entitled ‘Extracting the Commons‘ and is part of a special issue of Cultural Studies focusing on the ‘Cultural Studies of Extraction’.

Apart from presenting the theoretical foundations of this project this article also discusses some of the fieldwork we did on the resistance against coal mining and Coal Seam Gas extraction in New South Wales in 2015 and 2016.

The article looks at how extraction is enacted through three distinct practices: prospecting, enclosure and unbundling, studied through three different cases. The cases involve resources that are material and immaterial, renewable as well as non-renewable, “natural” as well as man-made. Prospecting is exemplified by patenting of genetic resources and traditional knowledge, enclosure is exemplified by debates over copyright expansionism and information commons, and unbundling through conflicts over mining and gas extraction. The article draws on interviews and participant observation with protesters at contested mining sites in Australia and with digital rights activists from across the world who protest against how the expansion of copyright limits public access to culture and information.

The article departs from an understanding of “commons” not as an open-access resource, but as a resource shared by a group of people, often subjected to particular social norms that regulate how it can be used. Enclosure and extraction are both social processes, dependent on recognising some and downplaying or misrecognising other social relations when it comes to resources and processes of property creation. These processes are always, regardless of the particular resources at stake, cultural in the sense that the uses of the commons are regulated through cultural norms and contracts, but also that they carry profound cultural and social meanings for those who use them. Finally, the commonalities and heterogeneities of these protest movements are analysed as ‘working in common’, where the resistance to extraction in itself represents a process of commoning.

If you have a subscription you can find the final version at Cultural Studies, but you can also download a post-print version of the article for free here Dahlin and Fredrikson Post-print version.


 

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Commons and Commodities

Commons and Commodities
Commons and Commodities är ett forskningsprojekt som undersöker hur gemensamma resurser, allmänningar, avgränsas och inhägnas – och det motstånd sådana processer möter. Vi studerar hur olika typer av allmänningar – både materiella och immateriella – på olika sätt privatiseras och inhägnas och hur detta påverkar de som brukar dem. Vi som skriver här heter Johanna Dahlin och Martin Fredriksson.

Common and Commodities is a research project which asks if, and how, the commons are rearticulated and enclosed as property. It aims to provide new knowledge about how different kinds of common resources are enclosed and commodified as private property, and how this affects those who use and manage those commons. Johanna Dahlin and Martin Fredriksson are writing.

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