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Within and Beyond Law?

Feminist Perspectives on Urban and Housing Commons

During the first funding period, commons served as a theoretical sensitizing concept in order to think about and analyze communities of urban co-housing in a non-essentializing way. In the second period, two central dimensions of urban and housing commons will be investigated in greater depth - processes of the reclaiming and (long-term) maintenance of commons. Using this conceptual basis, two empirical threads from the first period will be continued by means of two ethnographic case studies: Due to the relevance of new models of ownership in the context of urban housing policy, case study A examines the first Community Land Trust in Germany. It strives - in the sense of (re)-claiming - for a democratic form of ownership by residents and neighbourhoods as well as for the long-term decommodification of real estates, that is, commons-based and -securing property relations. The subjects of sexism and sexual violence in urban co-housing were found to be empirically relevant. Thus, case study B examines collective approaches to sexism and sexual violence in communities - conflicts in the area of maintenance, in which inclusion and exclusion, hierarchies (informal), and internally developed and lived rules are negotiated.

The aim of the project is to empirically understand, how solidarity-based forms of urban and housing commons are tried out and what role law plays in this context. By linking the two case studies the project examines a) potential connections between formal structural aspects and the relations within commons, and thereby contributes to the systematic linking of processes of reclaiming and maintenance. The project is researching b) two ways of dealing with law. On the one hand, it asks about possibilities of making current law usable for the development of legal forms that protect the commons. On the other hand, it explores how the ‘institutions of commoning’ function which, following the principle of self-organization, are practised outside of the current legal system.

The study expands on previously peripheral feminist commons research. It focuses on the discrepancy between the imagination of emancipatory ‘modes of relationships’ and the observable power-shaped everyday practice. By collecting well-founded material on the everyday practices of the new common and by looking at the inscribed but contested ideas of (other) general social conditions, the project contributes to the overarching questions of the Research Unit.

Team:   Sabine Hark   Hanna Meißner   Bettina Barthel   Nina Fraeser