The commons is increasingly invoked as a way to envision new worlds. One strand of commons research focuses at the local scale, on small groups in “traditional”, mostly rural societies; this research asks how commons are maintained over time. Another strand focuses on the commons at a global scale; this is political research that asks how commons can be reclaimed from a capitalist landscape. Here, I bridge these two approaches by theorizing the commons as reclaimed and maintained in the context of the city, through examining the experiences of limited-equity housing cooperatives in Washington, DC. I argue that the urban commons is marked by two distinct traits: it emerges in space that is saturated with people, competing uses, and financial investment; and it is constituted by the collective work of strangers. The challenges of reclaiming and maintaining an urban commons are substantial, but the need for them is urgent.
Huron, Amanda. 2015. “Working with Strangers in Saturated Space: Reclaiming and Maintaining the Urban Commons.” Antipode, 47(4): 963-979.