Reclaiming the Commons Through Civic Participation

As the Occupy Movement, Gezi Park protests, and everyday urban reclamation projects demonstrate, power and politics are embedded in place. As public spaces disappear, reclaiming the commons becomes increasingly important, say Leo Hollis.
July 20, 2013, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"Henri Lefebvre, the French Marxist philosopher (and most famous taxi driver in Paris), observed in the late 1960s that there are no neutral places in the city; that the different threads of power find their way into every crack of the metropolis, constructing a cartography of exclusions and barriers," writes Hollis. "Within this political perspective, the people have a common right to utilise city space without restriction."

"Through violent and defiant protests, provocative performances, citizen action, even unsolicited horticulture, the battle for civic space continues to reinvent itself. Sometimes, the action starts in reaction to the state. Other times, it kicks off because the powers-that-be are too slow to react to events, and local residents or campaigners take matters into their own hands, taking the urban domain to be a common realm rather than ‘someone else’s problem’."

"Reclamation of the city begins with the realisation that ‘that’ place, whatever its problems, is in fact ‘our’ place. By reclaiming it, we might actually find that we possess the solution, and in the process, we might just change ourselves."

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Published on Thursday, July 18, 2013 in Aeon
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