Carving out the Commons: Tenant Organizing and Housing Cooperatives in Washington, D.C.

March 14, 2018

When: March 14, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Where: Room 7000, SFU Vancouver, Harbour Centre - 515 W. Hastings St.

Cost: Free

Is there space in the capitalist city for the enactment of a contemporary commons? How can the commons be thought of in a more active sense, as ‘commoning’? What are the limitations of commons’ as a radical strategy? How might commoning be practically performed? Who is included in the common? Who might be excluded?

These questions will be explored at a panel involving Amanda Huron (University of the District of Columbia), author of Carving Out the Commons: Tenant Organizing and Housing Cooperatives in Washington, D.C. (University of Minnesota Press).

Since the 1970s, Washington, D.C., tenants, as a reaction to gentrification and the eviction of low-income people from desirable neighborhoods, began forming cooperative organizations to collectively purchase and manage their apartment buildings. These tenants were creating a commons, taking a resource—housing—that had been used to extract profit from them and reshaping it as a resource that was collectively owned and governed by them.

In Carving Out the Commons, Amanda Huron theorizes the practice of urban “commoning” through a close investigation of the city’s limited-equity housing cooperatives. Drawing on feminist and anticapitalist perspectives, Huron asks whether a commons can work in a city where land and other resources are scarce and how strangers who may not share a past or future come together to create and maintain commonly-held spaces in the midst of capitalism. Arguing against the romanticization of the commons, she instead positions the urban commons as a pragmatic practice. Through the practice of commoning, she contends, we can learn to build communities to challenge capitalism’s totalizing claims over life.


Lama Mugabo and Anthonia Ogundele: Hogans Alley Trust Project

Matt Hern: community organizer and independent scholar.

Co-sponsored by the SFU Urban Studies Program and the SFU Department of Geography