French Course on the History of the Law of the Commons

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* Course (in French): 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month from 9am to 11am. EHESS, 105 bd Raspail 75006 Paris, room 9



"Commons are the subject of an ever-increasing number of research programmes, based on the most diverse disciplinary approaches. The study of the commons feeds, and at the same time nourishes itself, from multiple historiographical traditions: from the "classical humanities" to the "wild humanity" of the post-colonial worlds, from Morgan's primitive communism to debates on the dynamics of enclosure or openness in the regulations of access to the commons of knowledge. The focus of the seminar will be historical and legal. The role of history is both central and ambiguous in the study of commons. The work on the commons, whatever the disciplines through which they are approached (law, anthropology, political studies, geography, sociology...), often include - as a necessary passage - a historical approach. This use of history raises a number of questions. What continuity can be traced between what are termed "historic" and interesting "communities" of modest size - and the "new commons", especially those of information and knowledge, or the "global commons" such as air or biodiversity? Attempting to develop a theoretical framework for these different lines of research - on historical commons, new commons and global commons - means avoiding the naturalisation of commons and taking stock of their instituted nature. There are debates on the relevance of historical references, such as enclosure. Different federating figures can be found in the study of the commons, from Elinor Ostrom to Carol M. Rose, who question the dynamics - also historical - between public and common and ask in a renewed way the question of "access" and the category of "public".

We will focus in particular on the analysis of the triangulation between resources in the broadest sense of the term, actors' practices and the attribution of rights, which we consider to be the specific mark of the commons. Our attention will focus on the social dynamics that link a thing, resource, practice, experience or event to the identification of a collective of actors. We will observe the assembling and legal translations which are both the condition and the effect of this knotting. A historical and legal approach of the commons will enable us to isolate and analyse temporal sequences, in which the "collectives" come later than the "commons". We will give special emphasis to: 1) The role of private law in the institutional shaping of commons and 2) The various phenomena of the legal institution of resources or practices.

The seminar will alternate sessions in which we will study a rich literature on the history of common property and its legal status, cross-referencing the presentation of ongoing research and critical literature on the subject. And sessions where we will welcome researchers and research teams, who are interested in the commons from different disciplinary points of view."


9th november 2017

Alice Ingold (EHESS) et Michele Spanò (EHESS)

Common: between genealogical' impulse' and legal' institution

23th november 2017

Angelo Torre (Università del Piemonte Orientale)

Common: case studies and perspectives

14th december 2017

Alice Ingold (EHESS)

History and commons, an ambiguous report

11th january 2018

Michele Spanò (EHESS)

Materiality of the law. Edward P. Thompson and the Common Institution.

25th january 2018

Philippe Minard (EHESS)

Edward P. Thompson and the Commons: A Historical View

8th february 2018

Ferhat Taylan (Université de Liège)

From the Law of Nature to the Law of Common Environments: The Case of the Whanganui River and Beyond

22th february 2018

Aurore Chaigneau (Université de Paris Nanterre)

Common, a legal notion?

8th march 2018

Presentation and discussions on the Dictionary of Commons with its curators Marie Cornu (CNRS-ISP) Judith Rochfeld (Université Panthéon Sorbonne) and Fabienne Orsi (IRD, LPED)

22th march 2018

Pierre Thevenin (Sciences Po Paris)

Precariousness of the commons. Genealogies of a legal figure

12th april 2018

Séverine Dussolier (Sciences Po Paris)


24th may 2018

Robert Nichols (University of Minnesota)

Dispossession : A Conceptual Reconstruction

14th june 2018

Alice Ingold (EHESS) et Michele Spanò (EHESS)

Conclusions and outlook

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