Rethinking the Urban Commons Beyond the Human vs Non-Human Divide

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* Article/Chapter: The city is not a menschenpark: Rethinking the tragedy of the Urban commons beyond the human/ non-human divide. By Jonathan Metzger. Chapter in the book: Urban Commons: Rethinking the City. Editors: C Borch, M Kornberger. Routledge, 2015



"Urban commons is a concept that is currently ‘trending’ in the social sciences. Most of this presently emerging research more or less uncritically builds upon the influential theory of the commons presented by Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom, and generally focus upon issues regarding the production, maintenance and access to various forms of urban common goods. One thing that the interlocutors in the expanding academic debate on the urban commons appear to take for all but granted is that the subjects of the commons, the commoners, are presumably always ‘human’, and that the objects constituting the commons are presumably always non-human. I want to argue that this taken-for-granted ontological divide between subjects and objects, humans and non-humans, means and ends, resources and extractors, is far too self-assured and remains dangerously unquestioned in this emerging literature. In the light of a dawning understanding of the fundamental ecological entanglements of humanity we must learn to rethink previously taken-for-granted ontological categories such as culture/nature and human/non-human, destabilizing them to do away with destructive preconceptions that place humans on one side and non-humans on the other.'