Visual Cultures theorizing the commons
1. Resource Analysis: (3000 words + bibliography)
Write an essay analyzing a resource that is part of your everyday life. This could be a resource such as clean air or fresh water, sustenance such as a beverage or food item, access to knowledge such as a piece of scholarship or a database, a mode of communications/transportation, material or media you use in your own creative practice, a film, artwork, or other socio-cultural artifact. Track how this item becomes a resource, how and in what ways it becomes a commodity or a kind of property, and the framework through which it accrues value or exchangeability. How is access to this resource distributed? How does access to this resource allow you certain privileges or exclude others? How does it allow you to feel a certain way in your everyday life? Next, consider how this resource might itself be made more “common” or how this resource might be reframed or rethought in a way that enhances or problematizes the communization of life. You are required to critically discuss the arguments of at least three texts from the required reading list.
The module entails:
“Commons” are typically defined as resources that we don’t pay for and that are shared by a community. The term finds its legal origins in the shift to early capitalism, and contemporary political theorists have sought to re-invigorate the concept by reconceptualising the notion of the commons as a form of social practice resistant to the reproduction of capitalist growth and uneven power relations. “Theorizing the Commons” surveys the work of political theorists, artists, and activists who have called upon the idiom of “the commons” in order to refute the enclosure of social relations under late capitalism and reimagine the ownership, sharing and dispersal of resources necessary for the institution and maintenance of global justice and sustainability. This module focuses on the history of primitive accumulation and the acceleration of “new enclosures” in the wake of global ecological and financial crises, yet we will also attend to the ways that aesthetic practices might prefigure potential processes of communization. Through close readings of texts from within the Marxist tradition as well as anarchist thought, autonomism, environmentalism, feminist theory, critical race theory, and cultural studies, we will explore the ways in which the structuring principles of late capital—particularly shifting modes of accumulation, ownership, private property, exchange— mediate our understandings of commons and commoning. The main overarching questions to explore include: What is the commons and what are its forms; how have communism, autonomism, anarchism, aesthetics, labor practices, or the university articulated notions of the commons?; how are land, ecology, rights, sense, information and culture constituted as common?; how do aesthetic practices mediate the production of common sense and emergence of communing?; how does the commons adjudicate the relationship between exchange, difference, equality and precarity?