The Journal of Design Strategies Volume 9: Cooperative Cities

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The Journal of Design Strategies Cooperative Cities

Vol. 9, No. 1 | Fall 2017



VOL. 9, NO. 1 | FALL 2017 COOPERATIVE CITIES

EDITORIAL STAFF

The Journal of Design Strategies is published by The New School in association with the School of Design

GUEST EDITORS

Strategies at Parsons School of Design.

Miodrag Mitrasˇinovic´and Gabriela Rendón The Stephan Weiss Lecture Series and Journal of EXECUTIVE EDITOR

Design Strategies are made possible by an endowment

Matthew Robb

established by The Karan-Weiss Foundation, Donna Karan, Gabrielle Karan, Corey Weiss, and Lisa Weiss.

GRAPHIC DESIGN

HvADesign

PARSONS

Henk van Assen

2 West 13th Street, 9th floor

Igor Korenfeld

New York, NY 10011

Meghan Lynch Parsons focuses on creating engaged citizens and outstanding artists, designers, scholars, and business leaders through a design-based professional and liberal arts education. Parsons students learn to rise to the challenges of living, working, and creative decision-making in a world where human experience is increasingly designed. The school embraces curricular innovation, pioneering uses of technology, collaborative methods, and global perspectives on the future of design. © The New School 2017. All rights reserved. ISSN: 1935-0112. ISSN: 1935-0120 (online).


TABLE OF CONTENTS

3

LETTER FROM THE DEAN

4

STEPHAN WEISS LECTURE SERIES

5

LETTER FROM THE EDITORS

Miodrag Mitrasˇinovic´ and Gabriela Rendón

18

Black Women, Cooperatives, and Community

Jessica Gordon Nembhard

33

Commoning The City: From Survival to Resistance and Reclamation

Silvia Federici

38

A Feminine Reinvention of the Commons

Doina Petrescu

52

We Stay in San Roque! Fighting for the Right to the Territory in a Popular Market in the City of Quito, Ecuador

Ana Rodríguez

62

Working Together: Toward Imagined Cooperation in Resistance

Elke Krasny

71

Putting the Solidarity Economy on the Map

Maliha Safri, Stephen Healy, Craig Borowiak, and Marianna Pavlovskaya

84

Building A Neighborhood Cooperative: Interview with Jeanne van Heeswijk

Gabriela Rendón

108

CONTRIBUTORS


LETTER FROM THE DEAN It is a pleasure to present Volume 9 of The Journal of Design Strategies, “Cooperative Cities.” The articles collected here describe a range of recent and current initiatives that seek to redress, in imaginative new ways, social and political problems characteristic of urban living. The problems include those associated with gentrification and the displacement of established communities; economic disruptions that large corporate concerns can cause within local neighborhoods and business districts; inadequate government management of urban spaces and the distribution of social services; and various forms of structural or de facto discrimination, often along racial or ethnic lines, that can result from urban planning and development policies that do not take the interests of all stakeholder groups sufficiently into account. In general, the responses to the familiar urban challenges described in the following pages represent innovative attempts to work within (or between) existing spatial, legal, or economic arrangements. Most involve ways for people to work together to meet shared needs—ways that do not rely exclusively on market mechanisms or on legal institutions such as private property. It is particularly noteworthy, although perhaps not surprising, that almost all of the projects recounted in this volume have been initiated or primarily maintained by women: not surprising in that, in urban contexts throughout the world, women tend to be disproportionately affected by the sorts of problems indicated above. The creativity, thoughtfulness, and determination that the women profiled in these pages have brought to bear in jointly addressing their shared challenges—often without official state support and sometimes in the face of serious injustice—is truly inspiring. They are enacting new forms of economic cooperation, of social participation, and of political action, in the process lifting up entire communities while setting examples and suggesting new possibilities for us all. I am very grateful for the Karan-Weiss Foundation’s continuing sponsorship of the Stephan Weiss Lecture Series and of this Journal. That support makes possible the sharing of stories like the ones collected here.

Joel Towers Executive Dean, Parsons School of Design 3


STEPHAN WEISS LECTURE SERIES

Each year, Parsons’ School of Design Strategies hosts the Stephan Weiss Lecture Series on Business Strategy, Negotiation, and Innovation. This lectureship was launched in 2002 to commemorate the life of the late artist and sculptor Stephan Weiss, husband and business partner of the fashion designer Donna Karan. Weiss co-founded Donna Karan International in 1984, and was instrumental in every significant venture the company undertook: launching and structuring new brands, most notably the Donna Karan Beauty Company; signing new licenses; establishing in-house legal and creative departments; devising its computer design technology; orchestrating the company’s initial public offering; and negotiating its sale to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. In Spring 2009, the School of Design Strategies became the formal host of the Stephan Weiss Lecture Series, inaugurating a new format for the lectures, the Design Strategies Dialogue. Weiss lectures have since been conducted as interviews and as larger panel discussions, in addition to traditional lectures. Recent Weiss lecturers and dialogue participants have included Yochai Benkler, Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard University and co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society; Sonia Manchanda, co-founder of IDIOM Design Consulting in Bangalore, India; Kate Fletcher, Professor of Sustainability, Design, Fashion at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion; and Pelle Ehn, professor at the School of Arts and Communication at Malmö University in Sweden and pioneering researcher in the field of collaborative and participatory design. The Stephan Weiss Lecture Series is made possible by an endowment established by The Karan-Weiss Foundation, Donna Karan, Gabrielle Karan, Corey Weiss, and Lisa Weiss.

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Letter from the Editors

In this issue of The Journal of Design Strategies, entitled “Cooperative Cities,” we focus on ways in which urban activists, most of them women, have in recent years conceptualized and fostered the co-production of non-hierarchical and cooperative urban practices. The articles collected here detail the work of seven women engaged in a wide range of fields—including art and design, architecture and urban curatorship, social art and political activism, economics and sociology— who stand at the forefront of cooperative and community-driven practices within city environments, and who represent the agency that female leaders have assumed in the production of new systems and processes of urban transformation. The various contributions to this volume also illustrate some of the tactics and organizational frameworks involved in the urban practices they describe, as well as their impact in urban communities across the world. Historically, women have often constituted a counter-power in urban environments and communities. Sensitive to common needs and demands, they have led the creation of collective forms of care and social reproduction in the context of hegemonic political and ideological systems based on individuality, competition, and strict divisions of labor. Their creation of “solidarity economies” and other forms of commons-building have helped women and other traditionally marginalized groups around the world to mitigate and counteract the violence and exploitation that current systems of power have frequently imposed on them and their communities.

Letter from the Editors

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Cooperativism can be traced back many centuries, starting with organizational and working schemes utilized especially by ethnic and rural communities to maintain ancestral lands as a means of subsistence. In modern times, the cooperative movement, with roots also in social and labor movements, became an important force in ameliorating the impacts of the industrial revolution, which had radically changed the social and economic structure of cities and rural communities alike. The past century has witnessed the creation of new urban organizational forms and practices of solidarity, from agricultural, banking, and worker cooperatives to cooperatives providing housing, education, insurance, and various social services. Interestingly, these progressive endeavors, like their predecessors, have not generally derived from intellectual theorists or urban experts, but rather from those traditionally underrepresented in the production of cities: immigrants, minorities, women, and other vulnerable and often-disfranchised groups. It is our claim, however, that the important contributions these practices represent constitute a call to action for all of those involved in the production and transformation of cities, including academics and professional urban practitioners. Today, cooperative urban practices increasingly emerge as manifestations of socio-spatial organizations at the meso level, meeting needs of urban dwellers that neither public nor private institutions are currently able to address, whether through lack of capacity or of political will. In the face of scarce and inconsistent public financing, predatory and profit-driven urban development, and recurrent economic downturns, citizen- and democratically-controlled urban practices and enterprises have emerged as vital to sustaining members of urban communities worldwide, by promoting principles of self-help, mutual aid, equity, reciprocity, knowledge exchange, and solidarity, while also fostering fair distributions of power and benefits among individuals and communities. In many cases, cooperative practices have arisen as a means of survival, necessitated by the various economic, environmental, or political challenges cities are facing. In periods of economic hardship, these undertakings have been able to support a dignified livelihood for those who would otherwise be unemployed, displaced, or marginalized. Today, as masses of disenfranchised urban residents across the world grow, organize and increasingly mobilize, calls for the right to change our living environments, and in the process to transform our political, social, and economic realities, are becoming increasingly forceful. These developments thus give a corresponding timeliness to this volume’s exploration of the politics of cooperation, solidarity, and the commons as a foundation for the production of just, inclusive and resilient cites. It is particularly appropriate that we undertake this exploration in the context of a leading school of art and design, and a university historically committed to social justice.

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Curiously, the increased interest in cooperative practices among those traditionally excluded from the planning and production of urban space has been echoed

1

Compare Jessica Gordon

Nembhard’s contribution to

by a growing interest in theories and practices of cooperative social organization

this volume, “Black Women,

among scholars, intellectuals, urbanists, and social justice advocates. Indeed, we

Cooperatives, and Community,”

have witnessed the increasingly urgent call for progressive changes in the production of urban space and the social reproduction of urban citizenship in our own classrooms at Parsons School of Design, as well as in the work and everyday lives

which lists the International Cooperative Alliance’s seven fundamental cooperative principles: voluntary and open membership; democratic

of faculty and students across the various programs, schools, and divisions of our

member control; member

home university, The New School. It has been particularly inspiring to note an

economic participation;

increasing student interest in the above-noted developments, coupled with a desire to imagine, design, and realize new organizational and cooperative forms in the urban communities we work with in New York City and beyond. Acknowledging

autonomy and independence; education, training, and information; cooperation among cooperatives; and concern for community.

and reacting to all these trends in a spirit of solidarity, “Cooperative Cities” underscores a variety of ways in which urban cooperative practices, featuring non-hierarchical organizational structures, have produced new socio-spatial, economic, and political configurations, and ways that art and design have been involved in conceptualizing and realizing these compelling schemes. In the following seven articles, clear thematic convergences can be traced in the motivations driving the various urban cooperative practices described, despite differences in local context, resources, institutional frameworks, and political dynamics. Taken together, these thematic convergences provide a theoretical and practical context for the discourse advanced in this volume, and support an understanding of “cooperative practice” as: (a) an instrument of political and economic resistance against the onslaught of neoliberal urbanization; (b) a mechanism for the development of alternative, locally-based and communitydriven economic models based in equality, solidarity, equity, voluntary and open participation, democratic organization, and concern for community1; (c) a way to provide services and products that neither public agencies nor the private sector can or will provide; (d) a process aimed at designing equitable and inclusive urban institutions and agencies which can in turn help to incorporate a “cooperative mind-set” and practice into complex systems of urban management;

Letter from the Editors

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(e) a way of imagining and creating new forms of self-organization and self-governance, and of providing political representation to those traditionally un- or under-represented; and (f ) a way of incorporating accountability and transparency into the organizational triple bottom line: economic imperatives, such as community wealth creation; social imperatives, such as mutuality, democratic participation, and well-being; and ecological imperatives, such as the parallel pursuit of economic and environmental sustainability objectives. OVERVIEW OF THIS VOLUME The seven entries in this issue of the Journal represent their respective authors’ contributions to two public panel discussions that took place at Parsons in the 2014–15 academic year, under the auspices of the Stephan Weiss Lecture Series. Brief descriptions of the authors and their contributions follow: Jessica Gordan Nembhard is Professor of Community Justice and Social

Economic Development in the Africana Studies Department at John Jay College, City University of New York. In her article, “Black Women, Cooperatives, and Community,” Gordon Nembhard chronicles women-led African American cooperatives and their place in the movements for Black civil rights, social justice and economic equality. With its comprehensive detailing of the principles, protocols, processes, and practices that underlay the North American cooperative movement, the article makes an ideal introduction to this volume. Gordon Nembhard points out that African American women have been especially marginalized throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, and suggests that this has made them particularly predisposed to seek individual economic and social gains, as well as broader strategies for improving their communities, through economic cooperation and group solidarity initiatives. They have found that the cooperative model can offer a desirable combination of social and economic development, by uniting community members into voluntary, autonomous, democratically-controlled associations that have the capacity to meet shared social, cultural, and economic needs and aspirations. Of particular importance, Gordon Nembhard argues, is the fact that Black women have been traditionally involved—often through leadership roles—in the Black churches, mutual aid associations, and collective programs in African American communities across the U.S. Their activist and leadership roles in the African American cooperative movement are thus intricately intertwined with the struggles for Black liberation and with the Civil Rights Movement. Gordon Nembhard provides specific examples of women-led African American cooperatives through four distinct case studies: Cooperative Industries of

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Washington, D.C., founded in 1936; Freedom Quilting Bee, established in 1967 in Alberta, Alabama; Cooperative Home Care Associates, founded in 1985 in the South Bronx, New York City; and an arts-and-crafts cooperative, Ujamaa Collective, founded in 2007 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. An important distinction that these cases help make clear is that, unlike most African American cooperatives established in the 1930s and 1940s, which were generally consumer-owned and focused on consumer rights and freedom of choice, the most recent cooperatives tend to be hybrids of producer-owned and worker-owned enterprises. This is a critical development in the history of the African American cooperative movement, as it has enabled members of these “co-ops” to own both land and the means of production, leading to significant improvements in economic independence and political agency. Silvia Federici is a scholar, teacher, and activist whose work stems from the

radical autonomist feminist Marxist tradition, and Professor Emerita and Teaching Fellow at Hofstra University. Her article, “Commoning The City: From Survival to Resistance and Reclamation,” elucidates how cities have historically depended on their hinterlands for survival, and the ways in which “the incessant expulsion of rural communities” from their traditional lands has helped fuel urban economies of subsistence in cities around the world. Federici asserts that in these challenging and fragmented urban spaces, survival has increasingly come to depend on women’s subsistence work. In the most marginal spaces, in areas occupied though collective action and in confronting permanent economic crises, a new political economy based on cooperative forms of social reproduction has been emerging, in the process laying new grounds for resistance, reclamation, and claims of “the right to the city.” In many cases, she states, emerging commoning practices are not only allowing residents to survive, but also to create new modalities of self-governance. Federici illustrates how the struggle for survival can become a transformative force when women, disillusioned with the capitalist economy and government alike as means of supporting life, instead foment a “silent revolution” in which their organized efforts deliver essential services and ensure the maintenance of everyday life. She also describes ways that reproductive work has in many places ceased to be a purely domestic activity, with women emerging onto the streets in cities, sharing domestic labor and developing a concomitant consciousness that in some cases has come to represent a threat to entrenched power. Finally, Federici also highlights the role of art and creative practices that have taken on political significance in some urban communities, providing information and insights about government policies, and thereby supporting informed political discourse and grassroots mobilizations.

Letter from the Editors

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Doina Petrescu is Professor of Architecture and Design Activism at the School 2

“Studio for self-managed

architecture,” co-founded with Constantin Petcou in 2001.

of Architecture, University of Sheffield, and the co-founder of l’atelier d’architecture autogérée (aaa).2 Petrescu’s article, “A Feminine Reinvention of the Commons,” describes the design practice of aaa as a platform for collaborative research and action focused on the (re)appropriation of abandoned urban spaces, through the introduction of tactical urban infrastructures intended to enable cooperative practices of local citizens and communities. This approach is rooted in a commitment to the reconceptualization of the commons, not as a given or something to be discovered, but as a relational social artifact produced through the practice of “commoning”—that is, through the production of social relations and processes aimed at the re-imagination, re-invention, re-production, and maintenance of the commons. As presented by Petrescu, commoning is thus a cooperative practice oriented to the production of new connectivities, as well as to new networks of concepts, tools, and subjectivities, all enabled by tactical infrastructural devices such as those designed by aaa. Petrescu illustrates the studio’s “open-source architecture” approach in her account of two projects, both situated in Paris: ECObox, initiated in 2001, and Passage 56, commenced in 2006. In both projects, the studio initially introduced simple infrastructural elements (ECObox consisted at first entirely of recycled moving pallets) intended to be appropriated by local citizens and community groups and used as devices or platforms to enable differentiated processes of self-organization, while also setting a general tone to encourage cooperative thinking and practice. Over time, these tactical infrastructures indeed became self-managed by local residents, and both have since grown into complex cooperative organizations. The initiatives have also begun to remap and re-assemble relationships between local communities and municipalities, centers of economic and political power, ecological resources and agencies, and larger systems and infrastructures that might otherwise have been less open to ideas promoting citizen solidarity, cooperative social and economic models, and participatory democracy. Petrescu emphasizes that, in these Parisian projects as elsewhere, the main agents of change have been “for the most part, women.” Like Gordon Nembhard and Federici, Petrescu argues that the emergence of women as drivers of these initiatives does not reflect any sort of essentialist definition, but rather the necessities surrounding the social reproduction of communities, and the traditional proximity of women to these reproduction processes. First through small-scale actions such as collective gardening and cooking together, later through DIY projects and local flea markets, and finally through complex social assemblies—such as what aaa calls a “gardening agency”—women have led complex differentiations and relational shifts in the context of what are effectively urban social laboratories. In fostering

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these relational and cooperative experiments, aaa has also forcefully redefined the role of the architectural agency as that of acting with others in collectively framing a practice of “acting otherwise.” Ana Rodríguez is a social activist, artist, researcher and former Minister of Culture

of Ecuador. Her article, “We Stay in San Roque! Fighting for the Right to the Territory in a Popular Market in the City of Quito, Ecuador,” explores the life of a traditional market located in the Ecuadorian capital city—a city increasingly facing the forces of global neoliberal urbanization, including the exploitation of cultural heritage. Rodríguez argues that organizational processes are critical to prevent further loss of urban territories such as the San Roque market, sites of social reproduction which facilitate formal as well as informal flows of food and labor throughout the city. Rodríguez describes herself as an “engaged researcher” in the context of the San Roque project. Working with an alliance of like-minded researchers, she helped 13 sellers’ associations and other groups with a stake in the future of the market to form the Front for the Defense and Modernization of the Market of San Roque (FDMMSR). This mobilization effort was a response to development proposals made by the government which projected accommodations and other amenities intended to promote “first class tourism” in the immediate vicinity of the market. The defense movement casts the market community as a governing and assembly entity for collective decision-making, and envisions organizational tactics for the recognition of women and precarious workers associated with the market, of the FDMMSR as a political actor, and of the market itself as a space for economic and social reproduction of rural and urban dwellers and as a historically significant place where different cultures have intersected for centuries. The highly coordinated and layered work of the FDMMSR has involved cooperation among a wide range of people, from indigenous women who shell grain in the market, porters who carry loads of produce throughout the market, wholesalers and retailers, market leaders and researchers, to local politicians and even the President of Ecuador. In Rodríguez’s view, this endeavor must be understood as a cooperative process, promoting awareness across various classes of the value of their own knowledge and heritage, the role of the popular economy, and the local people’s right to stay in San Roque. Elke Krasny is an urban curator, cultural theorist, author and Professor at

the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria, whose theoretical and curatorial work is rooted in socially engaged art and spatial practices, urban epistemology, post-colonial theory, and feminist historiography. Krasny’s article, “Working Together: Toward Imagined Cooperation in Resistance,” discusses her curatorial project Mapping the Everyday: Neighborhood Claims for the Future, which took place in Vancouver, Canada in 2011–12. This conceptually-driven and research-based

Letter from the Editors

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curatorial project enacted cooperative practices at the intersections of activism, art-making, community self-organization, feminism, spatial politics, and political resistance. Krasny advances the argument that art-making and urban curating have the capacity to create the space and time necessary for working out a politics of cooperation. Building on the work of Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Krasny claims that cooperation, far from its common conceptualizations based in labor organizing and identity politics, is the act of working together towards creating imagined “communities of resistance.” In Mapping the Everyday, Krasny—at the time an invited artist in residence at the Audain Gallery in downtown Vancouver—initiated a cooperation between the gallery and the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre (DEWC), a women-led community organization that provides refuge and shelter from conditions of poverty and violence to over 300 local people, most of them women. The proposed cooperation was contested because the gallery, as part of the recently-relocated Simon Fraser University School for the Contemporary Arts, was widely viewed as contributing to the gentrification of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a notoriously underserved neighborhood where the DEWC had long been situated. Recognizing that “cooperation cannot be but difficult,” Krasny envisioned an archival mapping of the history of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, using a series of claims and demands recorded in the Centre’s newsletter, published continuously since 1978. The women Krasny worked with organized the material chronologically and thematically, identifying some 200 claims and slogans drawn from the newsletter to be included in the exhibition at the Audain Gallery, thereby registering the evolving needs and aspirations of the DEWC’s client population over the prior four decades. The exhibition was accompanied by a series of debates, round tables, and other events at the gallery, organized by community activists and focused primarily on issues of urban struggle and resistance to gentrification over long periods of time. As Krasny argues, the project embodied a differentiated type of cooperation, one “based upon a praxis of attentiveness, care, and listening.” In this way, Krasny helped to unearth historically repressed voices, claims and demands of the displaced and impoverished downtown Vancouver women, and to model of a form of self-organization and political representation among a traditionally marginalized group. Maliha Safri is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Economics and Business

Department at Drew University, a political activist, and a scholar whose work focuses on non-capitalist economies. Her article, “Putting the Solidarity Economy on the Map,” describes an ambitious effort, undertaken with fellow researchers Stephen Healy, Craig Borowiak, and Marianna Pavlovskaya, to identify and locate a growing set of practices that promote quality of life in communities across the U.S. through non-profit enterprises and other ventures oriented toward goals other

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than simple profit maximization. The underlying premise of this collaborative research project is that the solidarity economy has significant impacts on local and regional economies, but that these impacts are largely unrecognized. The mapping project aims to create a repository for the empirical research being done to evaluate the contribution of these initiatives, by providing tools to make them visible and to measure their economic as well as social impact. The spatial distribution of the initiatives can also be analyzed against demographic data on race and class. Examples of solidarity economy organizational forms are found by Safri’s team of researchers in many parts of the economy, including production, distribution and exchange, consumption, finance, and governance. Safri’s article outlines specific projects analyzing solidarity economy initiatives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Worcester, Massachusetts, and also features a special focus on housing cooperatives in New York City. This section of the article provides an insightful view of the impact of limited equity housing cooperatives, from providing permanent affordable housing for low-income households to building tight-knit communities, and from allowing residents to exert more control over their own economic lives to preventing gentrification at the neighborhood level. Lastly, the article acknowledges a risk that cooperatives might come to be incorporated into conventional strategies of poverty alleviation, a possibility that could actually make it more difficult to address the deeper structural barriers to realizing “social solidarity and progressive economic transformation.” Jeanne van Heeswijk is an artist and activist known worldwide for changing the

local politics in places that have experienced disinvestment, or where urban communities have been disfranchised, sometimes deliberately. In a revealing interview, van Heeswijk discusses two of her long-term collaborative urban projects, both of which have helped local communities to assume some agency in defining their own future: the Afrikaanderwijk Cooperative, located in the south of Rotterdam, the Netherlands; and the Homebaked initiative, a project involving the establishment of a cooperative bakery and a community land trust in an underserved neighborhood in North Liverpool, England. Van Heeswijk describes the decision-making process that led to the constitution of the Afrikaanderwijk Cooperative, a unique neighborhood-based worker cooperative in an immigrant-majority district singled out by the Dutch government as a priority area due to the concentration of physical, social and economic challenges there. Against the odds, van Heeswijk’s organizing work in the neighborhood helped to shift attitudes and attention, from a focus on “urban problems” to a fresh assessment of resources already available to the community, through highly imaginative deployments of cooperative practices. Van Heeswijk discusses how this project has managed over time to “radicalize the local,” eliciting the emergence of a new social infrastructure for creative

Letter from the Editors

13


cooperation that today incorporates a large number of small local businesses and residents engaged in formal and informal economic exchange. She also describes the process of setting up a cooperatively-run and -managed bakery, which in turn helped lead to the establishment of a community land trust to preserve the working-class residential district of Anfield in Liverpool. She explains the way the Homebaked project built community agency by first converting an unused commercial bakery into a cooperative, then further evolving the bakery into a broader platform for collectively envisioning alternative urban and housing development schemes, in a neighborhood pressured by market-driven urban development. Van Heeswijk’s compelling interview concludes with a reflection on women’s instrumental roles in urban cooperative processes, and on the long-term initiatives she has led throughout her long and transformative social-art practice. MIODRAG MITRAŠINOVIC´ and GABRIELA RENDÓN Guest Editors, The Journal of Design Strategies Volume 9

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cooperative cities

Letter from the Editors

17


BLACK WOMEN, COOPERATIVES, 1 AND COMMUNITY Jessica Gordon Nembhard

You start with those who make up the majority … living in poor communities— 1

Portions of this article

are based on or excerpted

women—and respond to their self-defined problems. The major problem for poor women

from sections of the author’s

is control of income, that is, gaining access to income in ways that give women ultimate

book Collective Courage: A

freedom in how it gets used.2

History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014). Some

Addressing the status of women in cooperatives does not result in just identifying a set of “women’s issues,” but rather, ways of thinking about a range of issues vital to coopera-

footnote references have been

tives and their placement in the economy and the community. In other words, thinking

removed; please consult the

about equity for women in democratic and management structures is one of a number of

book for complete documentation and more information about the people and topics

“ways in” to thinking about the relevance and effectiveness of cooperatives in general. It is also a way to begin considering barriers that affect all under-represented groups.3

addressed here. 2

Rebecca Johnson,

“Poor Women, Work, and

If we judge a society by how well its women fare—because their social and

Community Development: A

economic status so influences the status of children and families, and thus of

Reflection Paper,” [unpublished

whole communities—our society is not doing well. At present, women’s specific

paper delivered at Cooperative Economics for Women,

economic challenges include: gendered occupational segregation, even after major

Jamaica Plain, MA, 1997, 3].

gains in the 1980s; a gender income gap that remains wide in some industries and

3

occupations; high levels of poverty; and the widest gender and race wealth gap

Lou Hammond Ketilson,

“Who is Driving the Bus?” Proceedings from the Women in Co-operatives

among all demographic groups. More specifically, women, especially those who are unmarried with children, are less wealthy than men, and face exceptional barri-

Forum, November 1997

ers to asset building. And women of color have the lowest levels of wealth holdings

(Saskatoon, Saskatchewan:

when compared to white men, men of color and white women. Recent research has

University of Saskatchewan Center for the Study of

shown that single Black women’s median wealth is $100; single Latinas hold $120

Cooperatives, 1998), 33.

in median wealth; while never-married Black women and Latinas have no wealth

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T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


($0) on average. In contrast, single white women hold $41,500 in median wealth; single Black men, $7,900; and single white men, $43,800.4 While some women

4

have almost gained income parity with men, wealth inequality between men and

Color, Wealth, and America’s

women, and between whites on one hand, and Blacks and Latinos on the other,

Future,” Insight Center,

remains large, and tends to grow during periods of weak economic growth.

Mariko Chang, “Lifting

as we Climb: Women of

2010 (mariko-chang.com/ LiftingAsWeClimb.pdf); Mariko Chang and C. Nicole

In addition, women, especially women of color, also face special challenges related

Mason, “At Rope’s End: Single Women, Wealth and Assets

to business ownership, such as difficulty in securing financing. Partly for these

in the U.S.” 2010 (cr2pi.org/

reasons, women-owned businesses tend to be small and in the service or retail sec-

wp-content/uploads/2015/11/

tors, with comparatively low revenues. Reacting to ongoing challenges like these, Canadian community activist Melanie Conn has pointed out the constructive role that cooperative forms of enterprise can play in creating economic opportunities,

At-Ropes-End-Single-WomenMothers-CR2PI.pdf). “Income” in this context refers to earnings (salary, wages, and other remunerations), whereas “wealth”

particularly for women in underserved areas: “co-ops present a potential solution

or net worth is a store of value

for individual women as well as a broader strategy to improve the community econ-

based on the balance of the

5

omy.” Examples from history corroborate this claim.

worth of all assets owned (the principal and the returns), minus the amount of liabilities owed.

Cooperative ownership can contribute to anti-poverty strategies and commu6

nity building. In many diverse historical and social contexts, cooperatives have facilitated economic development, stabilization, and independence. One strategy of development for marginalized, disadvantaged, underserved, and oppressed

5

Melanie Conn, “Women,

Co-ops, & CED,” Making Waves Vol. 12, no. 1 (Spring 2001): 34–36. 6

Brett Fairbairn et al.,

groups is to use economic cooperation combined with group solidarity to start

Cooperatives and Community

and maintain businesses that will provide meaningful work and income, greater

Development: Economics in

voice and control, and the possibility of wealth creation. The history of cooperatives documented in my recent research confirms that these organizations have been a particularly important community and economic development tool in Black

Social Perspective (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: University of Saskatchewan Center for the Study of Cooperatives, 1995); Johnston Birchall, Rediscovering

communities because of their economic and social benefits. They re-circulate

the Cooperative Advantage:

local resources, support education and training, create jobs and meaningful work,

Poverty Reduction Through

address market failure and marginality, can be economically as well as environmentally sustainable, facilitate joint ownership, build wealth, encourage democratic decision-making, develop leadership capacity, and promote civic participation.

Self-Help (Geneva: Cooperative Branch, International Labour Office, 2003); Jessica Gordon Nembhard, “Benefits and Impacts of Cooperatives

Indeed, cooperatives can establish a mechanism for providing most of the elements

on Communities,” white

we look for in economic development: efficient resource allocation; profit or

paper produced for Howard

surplus; human capital development; leveraging of social capital; and individual and community prosperity. In sum, cooperatives combine social and economic development. They tap a sense of solidarity and concern for community to promote

University Center on Race and Wealth, 2013 (coas.howard. edu/centeronraceandwealth/ reports&publications/0213-benefits-and-impacts-of-coopera-

economic alternatives that create sustainable economic growth. At the same time,

tives.pdf).

cooperative members’ solidarity and commitment to collective action increase

7

productivity and help to stabilize their economic situation. Finally, researchers

Hammond Ketilson, “Resilience

Johnston Birchall and Lou Hammond Ketilson have found that that cooperatives are resilient, and can weather crises better than other small businesses.7

Johnston Birchall and Lou

of the Cooperative Business Model in Times of Crisis,” (Geneva: Sustainable Enterprise Program, International Labour Office, 2009).

B L ACK WO MEN , CO O PER AT IVE S , A ND CO MMUNI T Y

19


The Table in Figure 1 provides a summary of some of the ways that cooperative ownership addresses various challenges in rural and urban development. A housing cooperative, for example, provides affordable housing co-owned by the residents; a credit union provides affordable financial services, especially in areas abandoned by traditional banks or preyed upon by subprime and pay day lenders; food co-ops decrease food insecurity and increase access to affordable healthy food, and so on (see Figure 1).

FIGURE 1: Cooperative enterprises can address a wide range of challenges, especially in underserved communi-

ties. Adapted from J. Gordon Nembhard, Collective Courage, Table 10. 1 , 224.

URBAN AND RURAL CHALLENGES

20

COOPERATIVE SOLUTIONS

Export of capital and industry— relocation to foreign soil and to other areas of the U.S.

• •

Credit crunch, redlining

• •

Predatory/subprime lending

• •

Impaired credit

• • • •

Underdevelopment

• • •

Poor quality of education

Skills mismatch or lack of connection to labor force training and participation (employment)

Lack of banking services, nearby branches

Alternative finance businesses— check cashing, title loans, payday loans, pawn shops

• • • •

Worker owned and managed businesses

• • • • •

Community development credit unions

Democratic governance and ownership, fostering use of effective, innovative, flexible strategies and organizational forms which support competitive enterprises

Individual and community entrepreneurship given formal structures and support

• •

Income-generating and wealth-producing enterprises

• • • •

Education mission; continual education prioritized

• • •

Self-management

Lack of asset-building opportunities

Remnants of old industrial practices Unoccupied sites and businesses Weak or limited resource sectors

High rates of adult illiteracy Lack of skills, or of appropriate skills

Community owned businesses Geographic stability One member one vote—no tyranny of capital

Alternative and creative community financing Public/private partnerships and leveraging Pooling capital and other resources (lending circles, solidarity groups) Use of non-traditional resources and alternative assets (“social energy”, “sweat equity,” etc.)

Marketing or producer cooperatives

“Learning by doing” rewarded Folk schools, community schools, popular education Commitment to training workers, managers, and new members

Vertical and horizontal mobility “Social energy,” nontraditional skills recognized

T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


FIGURE 1 [cont'd]:

URBAN AND RURAL CHALLENGES

• • •

Unemployment, underemployment

• • •

Skyrocketing property values

• • •

Worker cooperatives

• • •

Affordable housing through cooperative housing and land trusts

Community-based revitalization of commercial areas

• • •

Worker cooperatives

Income-generating and wealth-producing enterprises developed and controlled by women

• •

Youth and intergenerational cooperatives

Income-generating and wealth-producing enterprises developed and controlled by youth (and women, members of other marginalized populations)

• • •

Cooperative grocery stores

Farmer’s markets

Poor or nonexistent childcare services

• •

Worker cooperatives

Prison-industrial complex

• •

Social cooperatives

Non-livable wages Few employment benefits

Lack of affordable housing Inadequate housing—poor quality, poor location

• •

Feminization of poverty

Comparatively few women in leadership roles

Women’s lack of control over their work

• •

Out-migration and loss of youth

• •

Youth safety concerns

Access to affordable and quality food

Poor dietary practices

• • •

COOPERATIVE SOLUTIONS

Lack of youth development and leadership opportunities

Child poverty

Prison reform

Non-traditional assets developed, alternative resources leveraged Individual and community entrepreneurship nurtured

Community land trusts Increased quality of economic activity increases land use, ownership structure can keep properties affordable

Women-led cooperatives Individual and community entrepreneurship given formal structures and support

Individual and community entrepreneurship give youth formal structures and support

Food buying clubs Community gardens in housing communities, schools and neighborhoods

Parent-run (consumer) co-ops

Worker cooperatives

Re-entry

B L ACK WO MEN , CO O PER AT IVE S , A ND CO MMUNI T Y

21


8 International Co-operative Alliance, “Co-operative Identity, Values, and Principles,” 2012 (ica.coop/en/whats-co-op/

Cooperative forms of enterprise can play a constructive role in creating economic opportunities, particularly for women in underserved areas.

co-operative-identity-values-principles). 9

Technically, the ICA

indirectly represents over one billion individual people around the world through the

WHAT IS A COOPERATIVE? Cooperatives, or “co-ops,” are companies owned by the people in a community

memberships of the national

who patronize, use, or otherwise benefit from them. These member-owners form

trade associations in the

the company for a particular purpose: to provide affordable, high-quality goods

ICA that represent cooperative enterprises in member

or services that the market is not adequately supplying; to create an economic

countries. There are probably

structure for engaging in needed production; to compensate for a market failure

more cooperators in co-ops

by facilitating more equal distribution; and in some cases, to promote economic

not officially recognized in this way. The United States has

and social capital development in an underserved community. The International

the largest absolute number of

Cooperative Alliance (ICA), a nongovernmental trade association founded in

people indirectly represented by the ICA, with 120 million

1895 to represent and serve cooperatives worldwide, defines a cooperative as “an

people in 30,000 coopera-

autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common

tives. China, India and Japan

economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and

are the countries with the next largest numbers of people in

democratically-controlled enterprise.”8 Cooperatives range across the globe from

cooperatives represented by

small-scale to multi-billion-dollar businesses. There are over one billion members

the ICA. Canada, with a much

of cooperatives throughout the world.9 The United Nations designated the year

smaller population, has one of the largest proportions of

2012 as “The Year of Cooperatives” with the theme “Cooperative Enterprises Build

its population as members of

a Better World,” recognizing the viability of the model in addition to the fact of its

a cooperative: one in four. See International Co-operative Alliance, “Co-operative

widespread use.10 Therefore, although they were not especially well-publicized before 2012, cooperatives are a significant force in the world economy.

Facts and Figures,” 2012 (ica.coop/en/whats-co-op/ co-operative-facts-figures).

Cooperatives are classified into three major categories depending on the relation-

10 United Nations,

ship of the member-owners to the purpose of the company: consumer-owned,

“International Year of

producer-owned, or worker-owned (or a hybrid of some combination of these

Cooperatives 2012” (social. un.org/coopsyear). 11 Jessica Gordon

stakeholders: for example, co-ops owned by both workers and consumers represent an emerging structure).11 Consumers come together and form a buying club or

Nembhard, “Cooperatives,”

a cooperative retail store in order to pool their money to buy in bulk the kinds of

International Encyclopedia

goods and services they want, at the quality they want, and at affordable prices.

of the Social Sciences 2nd ed., William A. Darity,

The members of a community may establish a grocery cooperative, for example, if

ed., (Farmington Hills, MI:

fresh produce and natural or vegetarian foods are not supplied elsewhere, or are

Macmillan Reference USA

very costly. Consumers also come together to buy electricity, financial services (as

Thomson Gale, 2008), 123– 127. See also the websites of

in a credit union), environmentally friendly fuels, pharmaceuticals, or child care,

the International Cooperative

among other things. Producers may form cooperatives to jointly purchase supplies

Alliance, ica.coop, and the National Cooperative Business

and equipment, or to jointly process, market and advertise, or distribute their

Association, (the U.S. co-op

goods. Workers form cooperatives in order to jointly own and manage a busi-

trade association), ncba.coop.

ness themselves, to stabilize their employment, to decide on the work rules and

22

T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


make company-wide policy, and to share in the profits. Worker cooperatives are often established to save a company that is being sold off, abandoned, or closed

12 The ICA’s seven cooperative principles are:

down, or to start a company that exemplifies workplace democracy and collective

voluntary and open mem-

management. Worker-owned businesses offer democratic economic participation

bership; democratic member

to employees and can provide decent and meaningful as well as environmentally sustainable work, leading to income and wealth generation and economic security

control; member economic participation; autonomy and independence; education, training and information;

for workers and their communities.

cooperation among cooperatives; and concern for

To be legally incorporated as a cooperative business, an enterprise’s bylaws must

community.

include the ICA’s seven principles of cooperation such as open membership,

13 International

“one person one vote” governance, returns to members based on use, continuous

Co-operative Alliance, “Co-operative Identity,

education, and concern for the wider community; in a word, the organization

Values, and Principles”

must operate democratically.12 “Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help,

(ica.coop/en/whats-co-op/

self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity,” as well as account-

values-principles).

ability and transparency.13 Cooperatives operate on a “double bottom line,” paying

co-operative-identity-

14 Brett Fairbairn, “Three

attention not just to good business practice and profit making (production of

Strategic Concepts for the

surplus), but also to the good functioning of the association itself, member well-

Guidance of Co-operatives:

being and democratic participation.14 Because many cooperatives also incorporate sustainability goals (economic and environmental), they are often considered to address a “triple bottom line”: economic (business), social (mutuality and participation), and ecological sustainability.

Linkage, Transparency and Cognition,” (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: University of Saskatchewan Center for the Study of Cooperatives, 2003). 15 Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black

AFRICAN AMERICAN COOPERATIVES AND THE ROLE

Women, Work, and the Family

OF BLACK WOMEN

from Slavery to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 1985).

My research on African American-owned cooperatives finds that the African American co-op movement parallels the long Civil Rights Movement and has been a silent partner in the struggle for Black liberation. In African American co-op history, many of the players are the same as those who became famous for their civil rights activities. Indeed, some Black leaders got their start in the co-op movement. Black women in particular have been an integral part of the Black cooperative movement—similar to their roles in the Black Church, mutual aid societies and the Civil Rights Movement. They have often been the ones organizing and managing in the background, doing much of the actual work without

The African-American co-op movement

formal recognition in terms of a title or position.

parallels the long Civil Rights Movement

But in some instances, African American women

and has been a silent partner in the

have been not just members but also the founders

struggle for Black liberation.

or directors of cooperative enterprises and activities. Early mutual aid associations and collective programs in African American communities were arranged and strengthened by women’s work.15 Women such as Maggie Lena Walker, Ella Jo Baker, and Fannie Lou Hamer

B L ACK WO MEN , CO O PER AT IVE S , A ND CO MMUNI T Y

23


founded, organized and directed important economic projects and businesses 16 On Maggie Walker, see Elsa Barkley Brown, “Womanist Consciousness: Maggie Lena Walker and the Independent Order of St. Luke,”

along with men—sometimes playing a lead role as president or executive director, and often doing whatever was needed to make the project or the business work.16 Halena Wilson, President of the International Ladies’ Auxiliary to the International

Signs Vol. 14, no. 3 (Spring

Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and of the Chicago chapter of the Ladies’

1989): 610–615, 630–633.

Auxiliary, heavily promoted the study and practice of consumer cooperation in all

On Ella Jo Baker, see Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2003)

the Auxiliaries and in the Black trade union movement, as well as the full U.S. trade union movement, from the 1930s to the 1950s.17 Others such as Nannie Helen Burroughs, Rebecca Johnson, Linda Leaks and Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo developed

and Joanne Grant, Ella Baker:

enterprises owned and managed by Black women and dedicated to the improve-

Freedom Bound (Hoboken, NJ:

ment of women’s circumstances.18

John Wiley & Sons, 1998). On Fannie Lou Hamer, see Chana Kai Lee, For Freedom’s Sake:

African American women cooperative leaders include:

The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000).

Association, Nashville, TN, 1896–1931.

17 Melinda Chateauvert, Marching Together: Women

of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press,

Negroes,” Phylon Vol. 1, no. 1

Johnson, “Poor Women, Work,

Collective Courage, Chapters 6,

Fannie Lou Hamer, Co-Founder, Freedom Farms Cooperative, Ruleville, MS, 1970s.

Peggy Powell, Co-Founder and Director of Education, Cooperative Home Care Associates, South Bronx, NY, 1980s.

Nembhard, Collective Courage Table 7.1, 150.

Estelle Witherspoon, Co-Founder, Freedom Quilting Bee, Alberta, AL, 1960–90s.

7, and 8. 19 Adapted from J. Gordon

Halena Wilson, International President, Ladies’ Auxiliary to the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and Brotherhood Cooperative, Chicago IL, 1938–40s.

and Community Development.” See also J. Gordon Nembhard,

Nannie Helen Burroughs, Co-Founder and President, Cooperative Industries of Washington, D.C., 1936–40.

(First Quarter 1940): 39–52. On Rebecca Johnson, see Rebecca

Ella Jo Baker, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Young Negroes’ Co-operative League, New York, NY, 1930–32.

Burroughs, see John Hope II, “Rochdale Cooperation Among

Maggie Lena Walker, Founder and President, Saint Luke Penny Savings Bank; Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, Richmond, VA, 1899–1930.

1998). 18 On Nannie Helen

Callie House, Co-Founder, the Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension

Rebecca Johnson, Executive Director, Cooperative Economics for Women, Boston, MA, 1990s.

Linda Leaks, Co-Founder, Ella Baker Intentional Housing Co-op, Washington D.C., 2000s.

Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo, Co-Founder, Ella Baker Intentional Housing Co-op, Washington D.C.; Founding Board Member, U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, 2004; and Board of Directors, Ujamaa Women’s Collective, Pittsburgh, PA, 2000s.19

24

T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


African American women’s involvement in a cooperative often provided the additional push or energy needed to keep the co-op viable. For example, in the 1930s the Women’s Guild of the Consumers Cooperative Trading Company in Gary,

20 See Hope II, “Rochdale Cooperation Among Negroes”; see also J. Gordon Nembhard,

Indiana was responsible for reinvigorating the co-op movement in that city. As in

Collective Courage, 140–141.

many African American co-ops, Guild members organized a study group; gradually,

21 J. Gordon Nembhard,

20

this group’s members took on more and more responsibilities for operating the co-op’s stores, as others’ interests waxed and waned. At its height in 1936, the Trading Company’s first grocery store had the highest revenues of any Black-

“Benefits and Impacts of Cooperatives on Communities.” 22 Source: J. Gordon Nembhard, Collective Courage,

owned grocery store in the country, and gave dividends to its member-owners. The

150–154.

company also opened a credit union, gas station and second retail store.

23 Alethea H. Washington, “Section B: Rural Education—

Today, many of the worker cooperative businesses emerging in areas such as health care, child care, and home cleaning are owned by women, and lead their sectors

The Cooperative Movement,” The Journal of Negro Education Vol. 8, no. 1 (1939): 108.

in changing the nature of work for women. Worker co-ops, for example, increase the returns on such work by providing living-wage jobs and multiple economic and non-economic benefits, such as stable incomes, full-time jobs, advancement opportunities and management training, ownership of assets and equity, and dividend distributions in addition to pension programs.21 Examples of African American women’s cooperatives that have contributed not just to their own members’ economic stability and well-being but also to community development include: Cooperative Industries of Washington, D.C.; Freedom Quilting Bee; Cooperative Home Care Associates (employing Black and Latina women); and Ujamaa Women’s Collective. Brief descriptions of each of these cooperative enterprises follow. COOPERATIVE INDUSTRIES OF WASHINGTON, D.C.22 Cooperative Industries of Washington, D.C., based on a women’s cottage industry and self-help project that began with public money targeted to help put women to work during the Great Depression, was officially chartered in 1936, but had been operating before that as the Northeast Self-Help Cooperative. It was co-founded by Nannie Helen Burroughs, who was also president of the National Trade and Professional School for Women and Girls, and Sadie Morse Bethel. Based on an interview with Burroughs, historian and journalist Alethea Washington describes the co-op as “embracing the people of the community in a group of industries and in a farming project located in Maryland.”23 According to historian John Hope II, this cooperative consisted of unemployed, unskilled workers and homemakers who had incomes between $500 and $1000 per year. The organization began as a producer co-op for “the relief of the unemployed by allowing them to produce useful goods and gain their own livelihood by bartering their products for those

B L ACK WO MEN , CO O PER AT IVE S , A ND CO MMUNI T Y

25


of other producers.”24 We can assume that most of this co-op’s members were 24 Hope II, “Rochdale Cooperation Among

women, as it focused on homemakers’ needs and because of the (mainly female)

Negroes,” 47.

population with which Burroughs is known to have worked in general, as well as

25 Hope II, “Rochdale

the fact that the two founders were women.

Cooperation Among Negroes,” 47. 26 Hope II, “Rochdale Cooperation Among Negroes,” 46.

Unlike most of the other cooperatives active in the 1930s and 40s, Cooperative Industries was what would now be called a hybrid cooperative, since it started as an industrial workers’ co-op making brooms and mattresses to fulfill its mission of creating jobs, but was soon expanded into a consumers’ cooperative along with an agricultural marketing component, in addition to the original producers’ co-op. The store carried groceries, fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry, eggs and butter. Hope explains that this effort was different from the “English co-op model,” which typically started with a consumers’ cooperative. In the case of Cooperative Industries, the demand generated by the consumers’ co-op was believed to be necessary to sustain the producers’ cooperative. Hope remarks that whereas most of the contemporary Negro cooperatives had established a consumers’ cooperative, it was “both interesting and gratifying to see” how Cooperative Industries had taken advantage of the temporary help of the government [grant] to create a permanent cooperative society which has so charted its course as to be able to continue its independent existence by filling permanent and lasting needs of its members after government aid was withdrawn and other relief methods were substituted for the self-help cooperatives.25 Hope also notes that while the producers’ cooperative started with 400 members in 1936, it was down to 87 members in 1938. However, rather than being a sign of failure, the smaller number of members was a result of a change of model or focus, and actually revealed a stronger enterprise as the remaining members were more committed and

Today, many of the worker cooperative

more productive. Total sales were $11,380.00

businesses emerging in areas such as

in December 1937 ($28.45 per capita) with the

health care, child care, and home cleaning

larger program, and $10,280.83 in December

are owned by women, and lead their sectors

1938 ($118.17 per capita) after the reorganiza-

in changing the nature of work for women.

tion. Since the smaller number of members was much more productive, the co-op continued to be successful, despite the substantial decline in

membership. Hope also notes that the co-op had more customers than members, so surplus that was not distributed to members was saved and divided into two funds: one a contingency reserve; the other an education fund.26 This practice illustrates how important education is to a cooperative and its community.

26

T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


In Hope’s interview with Burroughs, she explained that the main reason for establishing the cooperative was to promote “production for use,” and invoked her “firm belief that cooperatives furnish one of the best ways for the Negro to develop initia27

27 Hope II, “Rochdale Cooperation Among Negroes,” 46.

tive and self-help.” This connection to community, and to the members’ needs for

28 Source: J. Gordon

economic independence, indicates an important mission and strategy of the Black

Nembhard, Collective Courage,

cooperative movement. With its farm, factories and store, the various functions this co-op served well exemplify the many ways that it operated as a community asset.

161–162. 29 “Freedom Quilting Bee: History, Activities, Plans” (ruraldevelopment.org/

FREEDOM QUILTING BEE 28

FQBhistory.html).

Freedom Quilting Bee was established in 1967, in Alberta, Alabama, to help share-

30 “Freedom Quilting

cropping families earn independent income. Some of the women in Alberta and

Bee of Alberta, Alabama: A

nearby Gee’s Bend, Alabama, came together to produce and sell quilts. In a few years they had made enough money to buy a 23-acre plot of land and build a sewing factory on it. The cooperative became a founding member of the Federation of Southern

Southern Legend,” Federation of Southern Cooperatives/ Land Assistance Fund 25th Anniversary Annual Report 1967–1992 (East Point, GA:

Cooperatives, the regional cooperative development and support organization for

Federation of Southern

African American and other low-income rural residents in the South. Freedom

Cooperatives/Land Assistance

Quilting Bee is an example of women’s leadership and control over their own work

Fund, 1992).

conditions and company, as well as an example of community solidarity, in terms of the ways this cooperative supported and helped the surrounding community. Over the years, members’ quilts have been displayed at the Smithsonian Institution, contracted by Sears, and sold in high-end retail stores including Bloomingdale’s. Some of the members’ quilts became well known as part of the Smithsonian’s “Quilts of Gee’s Bend” exhibit that traveled across the U.S. in the early 2000s.29 Owning their own land, and having a building and the equipment needed to quilt, allowed these women to earn money and to provide for other needs such as child care. They established a day care center, after-school programs, and other programs for youth on the site. Later, they sold eight lots to families who had been evicted from their homes and sharecropping land, thereby contributing to Black land ownership. Economic independence and control over land were particularly important to members of the cooperative, because many of their families had lost the land they were sharecropping as a result of their participation in the Civil Rights Movement (some, for example, were evicted from their farms for registering to vote; others on their return from hearing Dr. Martin Luther King speak in a nearby town in the mid-1960s).30 Owning land gave the cooperative an important asset, increasing its options and giving members an independence that they used to support their families and communities—and also to assert their civil rights. Land ownership was thus important not only to the co-op’s own survival and growth, but also to their families’ and the broader community’s.

B L ACK WO MEN , CO O PER AT IVE S , A ND CO MMUNI T Y

27


At its height around 1992, the cooperative had 150 members, making it the 31 Source: J. Gordon Nembhard, Collective Courage

largest employer in the town. At a time when the political climate severely limited

164–66.

economic options for African Americans in the South, this cooperative allowed

32 Sigmund C. Shipp,

women to augment their families’ incomes, to create alternative sustainable eco-

“Worker-Owned Firms in

nomic activities, to own their farms or utilize some of the co-op’s land for farming,

Inner-City Neighborhoods: An Empirical Study,” Review

and to provide services to their community. The increased income and control

of International Co-operation

over their own business allowed members to identify and address needs such as

92–93 (4/99– 1/00, March

the lack of land ownership, day care and after-school programs, and to participate

2000): 42–46. 33 Ruth Glasser and Jeremy Brecher, We are the Roots: The Organizational Culture of a

in voting and other political activities with less fear of retaliation. The benefits of the Freedom Quilting Bee cooperative also addressed the needs of the members’ families and the wider community—all under women’s leadership.

Home Care Cooperative (Davis, CA: Center for Cooperatives, University of California, 2002), p. vii. See also CHCA’s website: chcany.org; Shipp, “WorkerOwned Firms in Inner-City

COOPERATIVE HOME CARE ASSOCIATES 31 Located in the South Bronx of New York City, Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA) employs over 2000 Latina and African American women as home care

Neighborhoods”; and Chris

paraprofessionals in three affiliated worker-owned companies. With about

Weiss and Christine Clamp,

three-quarters of the employees being worker-owners, it is the largest worker

“Women’s Cooperatives: Part of the Answer to Poverty?”

cooperative in the United States. The co-op maximizes wages and benefits for

in Len Krimerman and Frank

members, providing paid vacations and health insurance (unprecedented in this

Lindenfeld, eds., When Workers Decide: Workplace

sector) in an environment of trust and collaboration. The cooperative is also union-

Democracy Takes Root in

ized. CHCA offers training and career advancement programs for its members.

North America (Philadelphia:

Employee turnover is well below the industry average.32

New Society Publishers, 1992). 34 See chcany.org. 35 Stu Snyder, “Cooperative Home Care Associates,”

CHCA was started in 1985 by a “social service agency to create decent jobs and provide needed services in an impoverished community.”33 It employs and offers

Fair Work Conference

ownership opportunities to African American and Latina women in the Bronx,

presentation, New York, NY,

many of whom had previously been dependent on public assistance. CHCA does

December 2009.

careful screening of potential owners, and offers training and career advancement programs as well as opportunities to move into midlevel management positions. Early on, the worker cooperative spun off a training and development program, Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, that provides training for the co-op employee-owners as well as others in the industry city-wide. CHCA also creates job ladder opportunities within the associated enterprises. Aides can become licensed nurse practitioners, assistant instructors, or job counselors. Another initiative now allows worker-owners to be promoted as “specialized aides.” In 2000, the cooperative established a third entity, to deliver specialized services to people with disabilities.34 This initiative allocates Medicaid funds for home health aides for the disabled in New York, and established a new nonprofit, Independence Care System, to facilitate the distribution of such aid and to help manage members’ caseloads.35

28

T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


Cooperative Home Care Associates provides several asset-building opportunities for its worker-owners, most of whom are low-income. The cooperative leads the

36 Anne Inserra, Maureen Conway, and John Rodat,

industry in providing above-average wages, benefits, leadership training and other

“Cooperative Home Care

professional development opportunities, and advocacy. The organization even pays

Associates: A Case Study

36

annual dividends in profitable years averaging 25% of initial equity investment. CHCA’s worker-owners also receive a $10,000 life insurance benefit, and most

owners contribute to a 401(k) plan to which the co-op also contributes an average

of a Sectoral Employment Development Approach,” Economic Opportunities Program, The Aspen Institute, Washington, D.C., February

of $100 per employee in profitable years. CHCA also aids its employee-owners

2002; see also Glasser and

in establishing bank accounts. Seventy percent of CHCA’s employees use direct

Brecher, We are the Roots; and

deposit into savings or checking accounts, but before joining the cooperative, 73% did not have a checking account and 79% did not have a savings account. The

Shipp, “Worker-Owned Firms in Inner-City Neighborhoods.” 37 Source for this para-

cooperative also provides small no-interest loans, and allows cashing out vacation

graph: Cooperative Home

days to help members with cash flow problems. In addition, CHCA helps about

Care Associates, “Helping

30% of its worker-owners to receive the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, augmenting their tax returns, and provides free income tax preparation services. These benefits are almost unheard-of in the home care industry, and rare for

Low-Income New York City Residents Develop Assets” (report distributed at the Annie E. Casey Foundation conference Expanding Asset

any low-skill job. However, because of the company’s social mission and because it

Building Opportunities through

is owned by its workers, these benefits are a priority. The cooperative is also active

Shared Ownership, Baltimore,

in sector development in New York City, seeing the incorporation of training, leadership development, and advocacy as essential. In addition, CHCA models strategic and effective partnerships between a worker-owned company and its union.37

MD, December 2, 2008). 38 Weiss and Clamp, “Women’s Cooperatives: Part of the Answer to Poverty?” 226.

Last but not least, this co-op promotes women’s leadership in several ways. Peggy Powell, co-founder and former Director of Education for CHCA, observes that the women worker-owners “feel that they have real input and control in this company. That clearly is going to develop their ability to speak and assert [themselves].”38 Many of the original members have moved up the ranks into midlevel management positions. Economic stability, economic mobility, and leadership development

39 Source: J. Gordon Nembhard, Collective Courage, 169. 40 Melissa Rayworth, “Beautiful Things to Benefit the Hill: Ujamaa Collective’s New Market,” Pop City, July 28, 2010 (popcitymedia.com/

for low-income women of color are thus some of the major accomplishments of

forgood/ujamaamarket-

the cooperative.

place072810.aspx). 41 Alaina Raftis, “Ujamaa

UJAMAA COLLECTIVE

39

Collective Market Will Open Saturday in Hill District,”

Ujamaa Collective is an organization of African American craftswomen/business-

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,

women, founded in 2007 to establish an artists’ open-air year-round marketplace

July 29, 2010 (triblive.com/x/

in Pittsburgh, PA. “The market is designed to provide booths and tables to

pittsburghtrib/lifestyles/fashion/s_692575.html).

entrepreneurs in the early stages of their development, so that they can showcase their handmade wares, foods and goods. It is also designed to bring shoppers and visitors to the Centre Avenue business corridor,” in the historic African American Hill District.40 The members had been “nomadic venders,” who wanted a regular place at which to sell their wares and showcase Black women’s artistic talents and entrepreneurship.41 They began in 2009 by sponsoring two successful holiday

B L ACK WO MEN , CO O PER AT IVE S , A ND CO MMUNI T Y

29


42 Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo,

bazaars—one the day after Thanksgiving (“Black Friday”); the other during the

“Current Day Black

December Kwanzaa holiday. The market itself opened in July 2010, starting on

Cooperatives” (presenta-

select weekends. Ujamaa Collective is supported by several local organizations,

tion for “Mapping African

such as Sankofa Community Empowerment and the Pittsburgh Central Keystone

American Cooperatives” session, North American

Innovation Zone.42 The group also received a large grant from McAuley Ministries.43

Students of Cooperation [NASCO] Institute, Ann Arbor, MI, November 7, 2010). 43 Raftis, “Ujamaa Collective

The 15 collective members produce sustainable, homemade and organic products such as jewelry, hair products, natural soaps, gift baskets, hand painted tote bags;

Market Will Open Saturday in

photography; games; music and entertainment; and vegan, vegetarian and West

Hill District.”

Indian food. The Collective’s mission is to “use non-traditional approaches to over-

44 Rayworth, “Beautiful

coming the long-standing economic and racial disparities in Pittsburgh’s small

Things to Benefit the Hill.”

business economy.”44 Founder Celeta Hickman wanted to show that women can

45

make their own money and help develop their communities at the same time. She

Vivian Nereim, “Hill

District’s Ujamaa Collective Offered Black Friday

wanted to connect to the Hill District’s history of women’s entrepreneurship and

Alternative,” Pittsburgh

collaboration—a history demonstrating “how women stuck together, and how they

Post-Gazette, November 28,

kept money circulating.”45 Another goal is to increase Black women’s wealth.46

2009 (post-gazette.com/ pg/09332/1016965-53.stm).

Socially conscious entrepreneurship that connects organically to African American

46 Ifateyo, “Current Day

and Womanist traditions, and that promotes women and families through com-

Black Cooperatives.”

munity-based businesses, is the method the Ujaama Collective uses. The Collective

47 Kwanzaa is the African

encourages cooperative business innovation and green business development,

American holiday founded by

offering regular courses in entrepreneurship and cooperative ­economics. The

Moulana Karenga, celebrated from December 26 to January 1. Each day celebrates one of the seven Nguzo Saba (principles): Umoja, Kujichagulia,

name of the organization comes from the fourth Kwanzaa principle, Ujamaa, which is the Swahili word for cooperative economics.47 Here, women’s economic survival and prosperity depends upon pooling resources, collective education,

Umija, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba,

and support of and from their community. This collective thus combines cultural

and Imani. See officialkwan-

traditions, entrepreneurship, and community development.

zaawebsite.org/index.shtml.

CONCLUSIONS These examples indicate the variety of ways that cooperatives owned and led by women of color in the United States in the 20th and 21st centuries have provided good jobs, assets, and job ladder opportunities to their member-owners, and better lives for their families and communities. In many cases the assets of the co-ops were used to support and better their communities through land ownership, social services and stable enterprise, and to make changes in society. Co-ops have enabled their members to leverage their often-meager earnings and savings into bigger, better, and more stable assets. All of these organizations have benefitted their surrounding communities. In addition, the women members were not only able to control their own income and work life, and to increase their wealth and the wellbeing of their families and communities, but also to develop leadership skills in the process.

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T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


This last point deserves further emphasis. Cooperative members rarely discuss leadership development as a specific outcome or impact of their involvement in

48 Source: author’s interview with Ralph Paige, Executive

these organizations. They do, however, discuss feeling more comfortable actively

Director of the Federation of

participating in their child’s PTA at school, engaging more with their children’s

Southern Cooperatives/Land

teachers, starting a community-based organization or being a board member (first

Assistance Fund, April 2001, Washington, DC.

of the cooperative and then of other organizations in the community), running for

49 Weiss and Clamp,

office—and in other ways being more active, assuming leadership roles outside of

“Women’s Cooperatives: Part of

48

the cooperative where leadership was first encouraged and developed.

the Answer to Poverty?” 225. 50 Carolyn McKecuen,

By interviewing women worker-owners, Weiss and Clamp find that cooperatives

“Watermark Artisans: A Lifetime Path of Economic and

“afford women a number of important benefits, including empowerment, leader-

Personal Empowerment,” in

ship training, learning opportunities not available in traditional work settings, and

Krimerman and Lindenfeld,

increased self-esteem.”49 Some of the mainly women members of the Watermark Association of Artisans in North Carolina, for example, became generally active

eds., When Workers Decide, 25. 51 See Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement.

in their communities, completed college degrees, and served on the local PTA after becoming members of the cooperative.50 Similarly, Cooperative Home Care Associates grooms its worker-owners to become middle managers and ­members of the board of directors. Today, a majority of the members of the board are owners, and a growing number of management personnel are owners and former front-line workers. As Executive Director of the Young Negroes’ Co-operative League in the early 1930s, Ella Jo Baker studied democratic governance and democratic economic participation, and promoted youth leadership and Black women’s leadership in social and economic transformation. She also observed those ideals in practice among the branches of the Young Negroes’ Co-operative League throughout the country. Working in the cooperative movement early in her career shaped her philosophy and leadership style for the rest of her career. Baker went on to work in the Works Progress Administration’s adult education program in

Women co-op members have not only been

the 1930s and 40s, and in the NAACP’s field

able to increase their wealth, and the well-

offices in the 1950s and 60s. She also became

being of their families and communities, but

a co-founder and first Executive Director of the

also to develop leadership skills.

Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), and a co-founder of and advisor to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s.51 While not well known for her early work in the co-op movement which laid the groundwork for her later activism, she is quite well known as a civil rights leader, for articulating and promoting democratic leadership from the grassroots, and for her founding role in SNCC. There are many other examples of women’s membership in cooperatives paving the way to major organizational leadership roles later in their lives.

B L ACK WO MEN , CO O PER AT IVE S , A ND CO MMUNI T Y

31


Cooperatives owned and led by American women of color have provided good jobs, assets, and job ladder opportunities to their member-owners, and have made many significant contributions to their local communities and to the larger Black liberation and economic justice movements.

Women were important to the Black co-op movement, as they had been in the mutual aid movement, and have been in the Civil Rights Movement. Many of the Black women involved in the cooperative movement actually began as leaders in their churches or mutual aid societies; correspondingly, many women activists were involved in the co-op movement. These women used their co-ops to create gains for themselves and their families. Moreover, they used their cooperatives to support, develop, and enhance their communities: building up local economies; stabilizing income; increasing wealth; maintaining control over their workplaces; providing social and other services locally; and using their growing economic independence to support the recognition of civil rights. These cooperatives, in other words, made myriad significant contributions to their local communities and to the larger Black liberation and economic justice movements. Many of the women involved in the co-ops were therefore essential to these movements.

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COMMONING THE CITY: FROM SURVIVAL TO RESISTANCE AND RECLAMATION Silvia Federici

It has been suggested that the city is humanity’s most consistent and successful attempt to remake space in our image.1 If this is true, then the face of the city today

1

See, e.g., David Harvey,

is that of a woman; for it is women who, in the midst of an increasingly dead,

Rebel Cities: From the Right

atomized urban space, are reviving urban sociality and creativity.

to the City to the Urban

“The Right to the City,” in

Revolution (London: Verso 2012), 3–25. Harvey’s essay

Already in 1999, the feminist sociologist Maria Mies noted that, in poor or underdeveloped countries throughout the world, economies of subsistence had been

responds to the claim by the urban sociologist Robert Park that the city is “man’s most

developing for some decades, organized primarily by women, practiced mainly

consistent and on the whole,

in urban centers, and yielding not only the material necessities of life but social

his most successful attempt

2

cohesion. As she wrote, if to the direct production of food that women provide we add “all the other varied forms of subsistence work—food preparation, bartering with food ... helping others, fetching and carrying water—then it becomes evident

to remake the world he lives in more after his heart’s desire.” Robert Park, On Social Control and Collective Behavior (Chicago: Chicago University

that the survival of the majority of people in these cities depends on women’s sub-

Press, 1967), 3.

sistence work.”3 This phenomenon has become even more pronounced since the

2

publication of Mies’ book, fueled in large part by the incessant expulsion of rural

Bennhold-Thomsen, The

communities from the land.

Maria Mies and Veronika

Subsistence Perspective: Beyond The Globalized Economy (London: Zed Books,

Indeed, in the peripheries of the sprawling mega-cities located throughout Africa,

1999), 126–127.

Asia and Latin America, in areas mostly occupied through collective action, and

3

in the face of a permanent economic crisis, women are creating a new political

Mies and Bennhold-

Thomsen, 127.

economy, based on cooperative forms of social reproduction. They are claiming and establishing their “right to the city,” and laying new grounds for resistance and reclamation. Thanks to their comedores populares (community kitchens), their merenderos (open-air cafés) and urban gardens, and their assembleas barriales

CO MM O NIN G T HE CI T Y

33


(neighborhood assemblies), the same urban encampments that led Mike Davis to 4

Silvia Federici, “Feminism

and the Politics of the

speak of a “planet of slums” can now be re-imagined as a planet of “commons,”

Common in an Era of Primitive

where a counter-power to the forces of neoliberalism is emerging, enabling the

Accumulation,” in Revolution

residents not only to survive but to develop new forms of self-government.

at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction and Feminist Struggle (Oakland: PM Press, 2012), 138–148. 5

Raul Zibechi, Territories

in Resistance: Cartography

Drawing upon these developments, I have argued that at “the point zero of reproduction,” where the illusion vanishes that state and capital can actually support our lives, the struggle for survival can become a transformative force.4 Echoing a point

of Latin American Social

that the Uruguayan activist and social theorist Raul Zibechi has made in his recent

Movements (Baltimore: AK

writings, it is in thousands of neighborhoods, at the margins of the state, where

Press, 2012), 236–7; 241; 261. See also Raul Zibechi,

women ensure the maintenance of everyday life. It is there that new social relations

Descolonizar el pensamiento

are taking shape, which not only provide essential services but change both the way

crítico y las praticás emanci-

reproduction is organized as well as the women themselves who are engaged in

patorias (Bogotá: Ediciones desde abajo, 2015). 6

Fantu Cheru, “The Silent

Revolution and the Weapons of the Weak: Transformation and Innovation from Below,” in

this process.5 The most well-known example of this “silent revolution”6 has been the spread of urban farming, a new global phenomenon pioneered in the 1970s by women in

Louise Amoore, ed., The Global

Africa who, expelled from their rural homes and forced to urbanize, began to culti-

Resistance Reader (New York:

vate unused plots of public land, eventually transforming their city landscapes such

Routledge, 2005), 74–85.

that the division between rural and urban began to blur.7 With urban gardening a

7

micro-economy was also born, as women began to create new forms of micro-trade,

Silvia Federici, “Women,

Land Struggles and The Reconstruction of the

retailing their produce and preparing cheap snacks for workers, all the while occu-

Commons,” in WorkingUSA:

pying the streets and confronting the police that constantly tried to displace them

The Journal of Labor and Society, Vol. 14, no. 1 (2011):

and criminalize street vending.

52.

Equally important has been women’s “commoning” of many other reproductive activities, such as shopping, cooking, and sewing, to counter the effects of the austerity programs and “structural adjustment” Collective action by women in several South American nations has begun to

schemes that, starting in the mid-1970s, the neoliberal economic agenda has caused to be imposed on their communities. An outstanding

alter widely-shared understandings of

example in this context is the case of Chile after the

what it means to be a good mother and

military coup of 1973, when in urban proletarian

wife, redefining these roles in terms of

settlements paralyzed by fear and simultaneously

going out of the home and participating in

subjected to a brutal austerity program, women

struggle against arbitrary authority.

stepped forward to pool their labor and resources by shopping and cooking together in teams of twenty or more. Born out of sheer necessity, these

initiatives nevertheless produced far more than an expansion of limited resources. The very act of coming together, refusing the isolation into which the Pinochet regime was attempting to force them, qualitatively transformed the women’s lives,

34

T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


giving them more self-confidence and breaking the paralysis induced by the government’s strategy of terror. It also reactivated the circulation of information and

8

Jo Fisher, “‘The Kitchen

Never Stopped’: Women’s

knowledge, essential to survival and resistance, and began to alter widely-shared

Self-Help Groups in Chile’s

understandings of what it means to be a good mother and wife, redefining these

Shanty Towns,” in Out of the

roles in terms of going out of the home and participating in struggle against arbitrary authority.8 Indeed, one consequence of these initiatives was that reproductive work ceased to be a purely domestic activity. Food preparation in particular moved into the streets, entering the public spaces and even acquiring a political dimension—at least in the eyes of the authorities, who after a while began to view the establishment of these community kitchens as a subversive activity and a threat to their power.

Shadows: Women, Resistance and Politics in South America (London: Latin American Bureau, 1993), 16. 9

Natalia Quiroga Díaz and

Verónica Gago, “Los comunes en femenino: cuerpo y poder ante la expropriación de las economías para la vida,” Economía y Sociedad Vol. 19, no. 45 (2014): 1–19.

Chile was not an isolated case. Similar struggles have occurred in Peru, Venezuela,

10 “Mujeres Creando,”

Argentina, and Bolivia. With regard to Argentina, Natalia Quiroga Díaz and

Mujeres Grafiteando, (La Paz:

Verónica Gago have written that during the economic crisis of 2002, as the official economy collapsed, with many companies closing and the banks suspending cash withdrawals, an alternative economy began to surface, organized primarily by women. As they began to occupy the streets, bringing their pots and pans to

Compaz, 2009). 11 See Maria Galindo, No Se Puede Descolonizar Sin Despatriarcalizar, (La Paz, 2013).

their piquetes (pickets) and neighborhood assemblies, a new political economy of subsistence emerged, one which did not separate the moment of protest from the reproduction of everyday life. For a few years, these protest actions reshaped space and time in the cities of Argentina.9 In Bolivia as well, confronted with the impoverishment of their communities, women have taken their reproductive work outside the home. As a result, as Maria Galindo of the Bolivian anarcho-feminist organization Mujeres Creando points out, the isolation characteristic of domestic work was broken and a culture of resistance was formed.10 Galindo speaks of a rupture within the context of Bolivian domesticity due to women’s struggle for survival. She points out that the image of the woman closed

An essential condition for

within her home is an image of the past, for in response to

challenging restrictive immigration

the precarization of labor and the crisis of the male-dom-

policies is to have a presence in

inated market economy, women have appropriated the

the territory, becoming visible and

streets and transformed them into means of subsistence—a

making one’s history known.

true “commons” where they spend most of their time along with their children, who alternate between school studies and helping their mothers with their work.11 Paid domestic workers have also contributed to the redefinition of urban space. Seen at first as a place of danger where you could be stopped by the police, asked for papers, or worse, public space has become for domestic workers a place of

CO MM O NIN G T HE CI T Y

35


12 Silvia Federici and R.J. Maccani, “Interview with

autonomy and solidarity, a place in which to break through the isolation of domestic work and reach out to a broader public, to gain visibility for their demands. Filipinas

Pricilla Gonzalez,” in Camille

have led the way, seeking out social spaces such as parks, churches or malls in

Barbagallo and Silvia Federici,

which to gather on their days off or on Sundays. In some cities, including Hong

eds., “Care Work” and the Commons (New Delhi:

Kong, they have gone to the streets, staging weekly public performances, singing,

Phoneme Books, 2012), 361.

dancing, or acting out the problems inherent in their lives and work experiences. Having a presence in the territory—whether a street, a sidewalk, or park—is a practice that has been driven not only by the need to overcome isolation, but by the fact that an essential condition for challenging restrictive immigration policies is to become visible and make one’s history known. According to Priscilla Gonzalez of New York Domestic Workers United, one of the main domestic worker organizations in the United States, this has proven to be a very effective form of organizing.12 It has allowed immigrant domestic workers not only to share their experiences, but to develop a consciousness of their condition as women, and a broader understanding of the consequences of globalization for their communities. Art has been another key element in the struggle for the reclamation of the urban commons. Art beautifies the spaces in which city dwellers live and work, giving value and dignity to their lives. It documents the achievements of the community, keeping alive the memory of those who have died or are imprisoned. Murals, street theatre, the production of posters, buttons, flyers, illustrated T-shirts, and stickers with images or slogans have become indispensable components not only of political discourse but of a life where every moment is a struggle (see Figure 1).

FIGURE 1: Members of the Movimiento por la Dignidad and other women watch a perfor-

mance of political street theatre in Villa 31 bis, a largely self-managed barrio in Buenos Aires. Photo taken by member of Movimiento Por la Dignitad.

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T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


With the surge of popular movements, art itself has been transformed. Not only is art increasingly born in the streets, but as these movements are feminized, so is the

13 Chinese term referring to mural-size newspapers hung

imagery invoked. A powerful example of the revolution in street-based art forms

in public spaces. Their use

that is taking place is the graffiti painted on the walls of La Paz by members of

coincided with the spread of

Mujeres Creando, images that reshape the city’s collective imaginary, transforming its walls into a vast tadze bao13 on government policies, challenging established moral 14

codes and keeping alive a sense of an alternative to institutional politics. In this context, collaboration with radical artists can be important, as can be collaboration with activists and educators coming from the outside, who (for example) can provide information and insights about developing government policies and projects that might negatively affect a local community, enabling its members to better

literacy after the revolution of 1911, and was expanded during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). 14 See various examples on the Mujeres Creando website: mujerescreando.org. 14 Zibechi, Descolonizar el pensamiento crítico, 161–170.

resist their implementation. There are dangers, however, especially at a time when the drive to commodify every aspect of life is turning even the social struggles that people are making into potential objects of trade, and artists into agents of gentrification. The spaces in which artists and educators wish to intervene in order to contribute to popular movements are themselves constantly threatened by commercial interests as well as by the authorities and the police, who tend to fear any power that comes from below.

Art has been another key element in the struggle for the reclamation of

Artists and educators, therefore, cannot be neutral

the urban commons, helping local

actors, nor can they imagine themselves to be the

women challenge established moral

carriers of a “pure” creativity and knowledge to the

codes and keeping alive a sense of an

struggle. As the examples noted above suggest, women

alternative to institutional politics.

have demonstrated a great capacity for autonomy and self-organization. They have also demonstrated that it is out of necessity that the invention of new activities and new relations often arises. Thus, it is more appropriate to think of the struggle that women and popular movements generally are pursuing in poor neighborhoods across the world as an escuelita (little school), where artists, activists and educators can learn not only to “de-professionalize” themselves, but to pay heed to a different type of creativity than the one usually associated with artistic expression.15 This is the creativity generated when, out of necessity, we change our relations with others, discovering in the power of cooperation the courage to resist the forces that oppress our lives.

CO MM O NIN G T HE CI T Y

37


A FEMININE REINVENTION OF THE 1 COMMONS Doina Petrescu

The question of the commons is at the heart of current discussions about capitalism, 1

This article is a revised

and extended version of a

labor, and democracy. Traditionally, “commons” referred to natural resources

text published in French as

such as forests, pastures, and rivers, of which both the use and the management

“Jardinières du commun” in

was shared by the members of a community. The term has now been enlarged

the journal Multitudes 42 (2010): 126–133. The English

to include all resources—natural as well as human-made, material as well as

translation of that text by Tom

virtual—that are collectively shared by a population. Extending this development,

Ridgway, previously published in D. Petrescu, C. Petcou, N.

the political theorists Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have recently sought to

Awan, eds., Trans-Local-Act,

emphasize a conception of the commons as something which is not discovered but

(aaa-peprav, 2010), and in

produced, and have linked this conception to other key terms in their analysis of

Peg Rawes, ed., Relational Architectural Ecologies

the present prospects for democratic governance: “We call ‘biopolitical produc-

(London: Routledge, 2013), has

tion’ the current dominant model [of labor] to underline the fact that it involves

been amended by the author. 2

Michael Hardt and

Antonio Negri, Multitude:

not only a material production in straight economic terms, but also that it affects and contributes to produce all other aspects of social life: i.e. economic, cultural

Guerre et démocratie à l’âge de

and political. This ‘biopolitical production,’ and the increased commons that it

l’Empire, (Paris: La Découverte,

creates, support the possibility of democracy today.”2 The idea is that a sustainable

2004), 9–10. 3

Antonio Negri and Judith

Revel, “Inventer le commun

democracy must be based on a long-term politics of the commons as well as on social solidarities also understood as commons. As Negri puts it in another article

des hommes,” Multitudes 31

co-authored by philosopher Judith Revel, “creating value today is about network-

(2007): 7

ing subjectivities and capturing, diverting, appropriating what they do with the commons that they began.”3 According to this view, therefore, the contemporary democratic project necessarily involves a reappropriation and indeed a reinvention of the commons. This undertaking requires new categories and new institutions, new forms of management

38

T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


and governance, and new spaces and actors—an entire infrastructure both material and virtual. Setting up this infrastructure is a relational process: it involves the cre-

4

Antonio Negri, “Qu’est-ce

qu’un événement ou un

ation of connections and links, a networking of concepts, tools, and subjectivities.

lieu biopolitique dans la

This networking must itself be a form of “commons”: accessible, fair, and sustain-

métropole? Discussion avec

able. The reinvention of the commons needs space and time for sharing;4 it needs continual and sustained “commoning”—that is, the production of social processes 5

Constantin Petcou, Doina Petrescu et Anne Querrien,” Multitudes 31 (2007): 17–30.

to reinvent, maintain and reproduce the commons. It also needs specific agencies

5

and the contribution of active subjects—agents—to instigate and carefully manage

commons, political and

these processes. It is the prospect of such reappropriation and reinvention, together with its different agencies and agents, that I address in this article. I would also like to add to the current discussion on the commons a gendered perspective, and a

In his definition of the

economic theorist Massimo de Angelis emphasizes three elements: a non-commodified common pool of resources, a community to sustain

more situated and critical reframing, based on my personal experience and practice

and create commons, and a

of commoning. Finally, I will bring the perspective of an architect and citizen

process of “commoning” that

involved in projects that seek to elicit new forms of commons. Designing and sustaining commons is a special challenge for architects today: it obliges them to design collectively, accessibly and in such a way that design is no longer a privilege

binds the community and the resources together—the third element being the most important. See An Architektur, “On the Commons: A Public

and a commodity, and does not segregate and exclude but rather assembles, social-

Interview with Massimo De

izes, and eventually politicizes.

Angelis and Stavros Stavrides,” e-flux Journal 17, June 2010 (e-flux.com/journal/17/67351/

I’ll take as examples two instances from my experience with the atelier d’architecture autogérée (aaa), an architectural practice I founded with Constantin Petcou in 2001 as a collective platform for conducting explorations, actions and research concerning urban mutations and socio-political practices in the city. Aaa acts by means of

on-the-commons-a-public-interview-with-massimo-de-angelis-and-stavros-stavrides). 6

See urbantactics.org.

“urban tactics,” encouraging inhabitants to occupy and manage disused urban spaces, to engage in nomadic and reversible projects, and to initiate collective practices.6 Our approach encourages local residents to participate in the reappropriation and self-managed use of space in the city. We believe that the revival of the commons can be facilitated through such tactical reappropriations and collective investments of immediately accessible spaces, and that these may come

The “commons” can now be considered

to suggest new forms of property and shared living

to include all resources—natural as well

that are more ethical and ecologically sustainable

as human-made, material as well as

than current arrangements based on private property.

virtual—that are collectively shared by

We have identified a particular type of space—urban

a population.

interstices, leftovers, or wastelands—as a possible common territory and as a new, specifically urban form of commons. These are commons that are reclaimed and reinvented in fragments, through the appropriation of small abandoned or unused spaces whose temporary and uncertain nature has helped insulate them from land speculation. We hope that in turn, these forms of spatial commons may contribute to the reinvention of other social, cultural, and environmental commons.

A F EMININE RE INVEN T IO N O F T HE CO MM O NS

39


Sustaining commons today obliges architects to design collectively, accessibly and in such a way that design is no longer a privilege and a commodity, and does not segregate and exclude but rather assembles, socializes, and eventually politicizes.

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T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


FIGURE 1: ECObox. Photomontage: atelier d’architecture autogérée.

A F EMININE RE INVEN T IO N O F T HE CO MM O NS

41


Aaa’s first project, initiated in 2001, was a temporary garden made from reclaimed materials in a derelict railyard located in La Chapelle, a neighborhood in the north of Paris owned by the French national railway company. This garden, called ECObox, was built with pallets to facilitate easy disassembly and transport, and eventually encompassed some 32,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor spaces at the site. Diverse residents from the neighborhood participated in building their own garden plots, cultivating flowers and edible crops in them. Over time, the pallet garden was progressively extended to include a kitchen, library, media lab, and DIY workshop, eventually emerging as a general platform for urban creativity that has catalyzed activities throughout the whole neighborhood. In 2003, an ECObox user’s association was created involving more than 100 stakeholders from around the neighborhood, who have continued the activities of organizing and administering the space (see Figures 1–3). The initial site has since been redeveloped by the city, but the platform is still functioning, having been moved several times within the area, always to temporary locations and taking different forms, but employing the same principles and incorporating new networks of users connected to each location. We continued our approach with the Passage 56 project, begun in 2006 on an empty plot on Rue Saint Blaise, in a high-density residential area in Paris’ 20th arrondissement. The plot, located in a former passageway between streets, was considered unsuitable for construction, and had therefore been abandoned for many years. The project consists of a 300-square-foot wooden building housing an office and greenhouse, and over 2000 square feet of collective or public space that hosts various outdoor cultural and educational activities. Constructed at minimal cost, the project takes into account the use of local resources, the recycling of waste materials, and the local energy economy. Indeed, Passage 56 has become an “ecological interstice,” instigating ecological practices in the neighborhood and enabling the production and recycling of most of its resources, including electricity, water, compost, and food. The building has a green roof and is powered by solar panels, and the Urban interstices, leftovers, or wastelands

site includes many other ecological devices such as

suggest possibilities for a new, specifically

composting toilets, a rain water catchment system,

urban form of commons.

seed catchers and a corridor for wild birds. The site supports various uses, including gardening, compost making, equipment repair, skill exchange

and organic vegetable distribution within the neighborhood, as well as other ecological practices developed with the participation of residents. The space is currently managed by its user’s association, which has since developed similar gardens in other courtyards of housing estates in the area. Passage 56 can thus be understood

42

T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


FIGURES 2–3: ECObox. Photos: atelier d’architecture autogérée.

as a prototype of “open source” architecture, which experiments with forms of collectively-produced space and forms unusual partnerships between institutions,

7

Félix Guattari, La révolu-

tion moléculaire, (Paris: Edition

professionals, local organizations, and residents that challenge current stereotypical

Recherches, 1980), 56.

models of urban development and management (see Figures 4–5).

8

Constantin Petcou

and Doina Petrescu, “Au

Aaa has since initiated a series of such self-managed spaces, where those who take

rez de chaussee de la ville,” Multitudes 20 (2005): 75–82;

part can see and test their creations and the effects of their actions, where they can

“Agir l’espace: Notes transver-

use rather than possess, explore ways of sharing, and take responsibility for what

sales, observations de terrain

is shared. These spaces are, as Félix Guattari puts it, “local hotbeds of collective subjectification.”7 Our projects, therefore, propose a wider understanding of archi-

and questions concrètes pour chacun de nous,” Multitudes 31 (2007): 100–24.

tecture, beyond buildings and physical space, affirming its multiple forms based on social relationships and new forms of collaboration that elicit the active participation of users and encourage their gradual transformation into stakeholders. WOMEN AND “THE RELATIONAL” My partner in aaa and I have written about our practice on several occasions, and I mention it again in this context to introduce the work of certain participants in our projects.8 It has been very striking to note that the majority of the most active participants in our various projects have been women. These active female participants, these agents, have been essential to the process of reinventing the commons in the context of these initiatives. However, I do not immediately identify their many contributions as “feminist” per se, but rather as “relational.” Our observations, based on the concrete evidence of experience, as well as certain data and facts related to our projects, support Negri’s hypothesis that a reinvention of the commons is a work of “the relational.”

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9

Nicolas Bourriaud,

Relational Aesthetics (Dijon: Les presses du reel, 2002).

The idea of “the relational” stems from discussions in the late 1990s, notably in contemporary art following the publication of the art critic Nicolas Bourriaud’s book on “relational aesthetics.”9 Bourriaud used the term to speak about specific artworks in terms of the interpersonal relations that they represent or create. He focused above all on the socialization of the public by these works; but he did not address the spatial and temporal relations they also create, and more generally, the way that human relations can evolve, affect, and be affected by space. Put more succinctly, Bourriaud ignored some of the ethical and political aspects of relationality. Our work seeks to redress this oversight. We qualify our projects as

FIGURES 4–5: Passage 56. Photos: atelier d’architecture autogérée.

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“relational” because they create connectivity: they stimulate desire and pleasure but also prompt political and civic responsibility on the local level, giving collectives of

10 Anthony Giddens, Social Theory and Modern Sociology

local residents the possibility of appropriating space in the city through everyday

(Cambridge: Polity, 1987), 216.

activities (such as gardening, cooking, games, or DIY projects). Indeed, we under-

11 Tatjana Schneider and

stand spatial production as an essentially collective process, one that empowers

Jeremy Till, “Beyond Discourse:

architects and users alike. More than the spatial products themselves, we are interested in the processes they generate, in how they work and who they involve in making and using. Rather than objects, in other words, we strive to design agencies.

Notes on Spatial Agency,” Footprint 4 (2009): 98. 12 Schneider and Till, 98–99. 13 Scott Lash, Antoine Picon, Kenny Cupers, and

AGENCY AS ACTIVITY

Isabelle Doucet, “Agency

Sociologist Anthony Giddens states that agency first and foremost “presumes the capability of acting otherwise.”10 In the context of architecture, to “design an

and Architecture: How to be Critical?” Footprint 4 (2009): 8.

agency” entails that the architect and perhaps all other stakeholders (for example, users, clients, or practitioners) have the ability to engage otherwise, acting “with intent and purpose” to create critical difference and take social responsibility.11 For my partner in aaa and me, therefore, “acting otherwise” translates into a way of becoming engaged with the politics of the place in which we live. It means questioning the rules and regulations governing current architectural and urban practice, introducing participatory approaches and promoting ways of working which are not, for example, merely “service-led” or narrowly “client-oriented.” If “the potential of agency might first be understood as the power and freedom to act for oneself ” and if, for architects, this power usually means “the power to act on behalf of others,” we have chosen instead to act neither for ourselves nor on behalf of others, but instead to act with others, empowering them to become agents themselves and to take collective responsibility.12 We valorize the contribution of the other in this use of our architectural agency to “act otherwise.”

Rather than objects, in other words, we strive to design agencies,

In addition to defining agency as “ends-oriented and

eliciting the active participation of

means-oriented action,” architectural theorist Scott Lash

users and encouraging their gradual

also proposes the notion of “activity”: “Activity is much

transformation into stakeholders.

less goal-directed, it is much more situational. It’s like Situationism in a way: you put yourself down anywhere, and see where it takes you.”13 Such a notion of activity is at the heart of our projects. Rather than imposing an elitist, profession-centred or specialist conception of space, we try to allow architecture to become an activity shared with the users of our projects. We share the knowledge necessary for the appropriation of space, the conception and management of the physical and spatial environment: an approach that underpins an activity that we call “architecture autogérée” (self-managed architecture). Autogéstion is a word that has a special significance in French political history, referring directly to the ideological struggles and anti-statist social

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14 Petcou and Petrescu, “Agir l’espace.”

movements of the 19th century, and to the idea of “workers’ control.” However, as Negri has pointed out, today the city has replaced the factory as the primary site of social production. In our practice, therefore, the figure of the “worker” is replaced by that of the “inhabitant” or “user.” Atelier d’architecture autogérée promotes a kind of architecture in which the “inhabitant,” or the “city user,” plays a central role in social production. For us, an “architecture autogérée” is an architecture that enables “users” to appropriate space in the city and to take control of its organization and management. By instigating “activities,” we challenge the users of our projects to take active positions with respect to the projects. The spatial transformations are intended to generate transformations within the users themselves, changing their motivations and the depth and character of their engagement within the city. Of course, not all users became involved in the same way in the spatial transformation, nor are they all

The spatial transformations are intended

ready to change themselves to the same degree.

to generate transformations within the users themselves, changing their

“THE GARDENING AGENCY”

motivations and the depth and character

One of the most important “activities” that has

of their engagement within the city.

characterized our work is gardening, which began as a simple, leisurely pursuit, but grew over time into a complex agency that incorporated other activ-

ities and networks: a “gardening agency.” Indeed, all our projects have included collective gardens, understood as tools of a democratic management of space: an agency by proximity, favorable to exchange, mobile and cyclical, anchored in daily life and based on an ethics of care.14 The “gardening” attribute of this agency is both metaphoric and metonymic, qualifying all the processes and relations constructed though the project in a direct relation with nature and with culture. The “gardening agency” thus involves large-scale environmental processes while also being adapted to small-scale, quotidian uses and practices. This way of acting can produce, over time, a space for collective modes of functioning and political action; it promotes commoning practices. As mentioned, the most active “gardening” agents in our projects were, for the most part, women. Not only were they the key stakeholders in the gardening processes—gardeners in the strict sense of the word—but they also invested in and maintained the projects with the most care. The women “gardened” the infrastructure of the shared project and worked the shared space and time that it encompassed. I believe that this phenomenon shows not that women have more time than others (for example, time for unpaid minor volunteer activities), but above all that they see an importance in these activities, as well as in their political, ethical, and environmental impact. As Silvia Federici explains in her article in this volume, women are typically in charge of the processes of social reproduction

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within communities, and most of time are the main caretakers of the community’s resilience.15 This is perhaps because, as the feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray has

15 Silvia Federici,

noted in her recent work, women have a complex availability and motivations, both

Survival to Resistance and

ontological and ecological, in developing “sustainable” relations on a number of

Reclamation,” in this volume.

levels: with themselves and among themselves; between themselves and others;

16 Luce Irigaray, To Be

between their communities and the built and natural environment on both local and global levels; between nature and culture in general; between spaces and ways

“Commoning the City: From

Two (New York: Routledge, 2001); The Way of Love (New York: Continuum, 2002); Key Writings (New York:

16

of living.

Continuum, 2004); Sharing the World (New York: Continuum,

BEING-IN-RELATION

2008).

Irigaray began talking about feminine subjectivity and its character of être-en-

17 Rosi Braidotti, Nomadic

relation, its capacity to be-in-relation, in the 1970s. This idea of a specifically

Subjects (New York: Columbia

feminine subjectivity took on new dimensions in the 1990s with Rosi Braidotti’s theoretical work on “nomadic” subjectivity and Judith Butler’s on “performative” 17

­subjectivity. But despite significant differences in their respective positions, all three thinkers have stressed a particular capacity of the female subject to make herself “available,” to devote herself to and allow herself to be affected by different agencies (social, cultural, political, sexual and emotional), thereby creating rela-

University Press, 1994); Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990). 18 Jacques Rancière, Aux Bords du Politique (Paris: La Fabrique, 1988).

tions and at the same time being transformed by these relations. In our projects, most of the women came first to garden, and after several years of activity began to take on extra responsibilities in the group, sometimes becoming engaged citizens and arriving on the “edges of the political,” to borrow philosopher Jacques Rancière’s expression.18 Their personal transformation was an aspect both of the composition of the user group itself and of the processes that made up the project. These trajectories coming together led to gentle “re-territorializations” of the projects, and generated “lines of flight” heading toward certain types of activities and uses that have become collective, toward moments (again invoking Rancière) of “collective enunciation.” Michelle, for example, had never been a political activist. She joined the ECObox project first as a gardener, only later starting to take on other responsibilities, such as organizing

Community gardens can produce, over time,

cooking events and participating in debates.

spaces for collective modes of functioning

Together with other users of ECObox, she went

and political action: that is, they promote

for the first time in her life to the City Hall to

“commoning” practices.

protest the proposed demolition of the garden. Eventually, she became a member of the ECObox association. The stories of Isabelle, Fabienne, and Catherine, meanwhile, followed similar trajectories in the context of other aaa projects: these women were parts of different micro-networks (comprising friendships, shared time, self-building, production, dissemination, and so on), and their investment in the projects deepened

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over time. They became, as it were, vehicles of the different agencies, “nodes” in the projects’ branches of networks. Through their multiple and evolving affiliations, they created differentiations, relational shifts—and decisively influenced the future of the collective projects of which they were a part. MAKING A RHIZOME Our role as architects has been to develop, sometimes to initiate, and then to support and prop up the networks that emerge around the different activities we have organized, allowing both personal and collective futures to emerge, and seizing the socio-spatial entity that arises, growing continuously and forming new networks. Ideally, in this process our role as initiators and agents The projects encourage the growth of networks of action and affection:

diminishes progressively until it eventually disappears, while at the same time the network’s capacity to develop and reproduce itself grows. Others then have to take on

mechanisms of democratic spatial

the role of “network gardeners.” These networks of action

construction that are rhizomatic in

and affection—mechanisms of democratic spatial con-

their structure, playing on proximity,

struction—are necessarily rhizomatic in their structure,

temporality, and multiplicity.

playing on proximity, temporality, and multiplicity. For example, as previously mentioned ECObox has been

moved and reinstalled in different locations several times by its users, and its organizational and occupational systems have been reproduced in other independent initiatives (whether citizen-based or professional). We call this a rhizomatic transmission: the prototype has the capacity to transmit all the information necessary for its reproduction, and the product of this transmission—the reproduction of the prototype—itself becomes a new transmission source, whether independent or in a specific relation to the original prototype. These projects’ existence in different sites may be only temporary, yet the accumulation of knowledge through experience is nevertheless passed on in new projects that continue and extend the original model by means of similar protocols and processes. “Making a rhizome” is a way of constructing an infrastructure of the commons— that is, it is a way of commoning. And once again, it is for the most part women who have been involved in launching and maintaining these active lines, these rhizome stalks. CONVIVIALITY AND RESILIENCE In this “rhizomatic” development of our projects, we have worked with those who were available and wanted to participate in creating an invisible and underground alliance of incremental propagation; who knew how to consider time and natural cycles; who had the patience to wait for the projects to grow and mature; and

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who were able to record or archive the methods used for transmission to a new context and the training of new agents. In this work, we have been inspired by Ivan Illich, who writes about “conviviality” as an alternative to capitalist production: 19

“Productivity is conjugated with ‘to have’; conviviality with ‘to be.’” A relational and co-operative practice, such as the one we have developed, has a different temporality and a different aim than those of a neo-liberal practice: rather than seeking to generate material value, a profit, it creates the conditions for a liberating experience that can change both the space and the subjects who use and experience the space.

19 “La productivité se conjugue en termes d’avoir, la convivialité en termes d’être.” Ivan Illich, La Convivialité (Paris: Seuil, 1973), 43. See also page 28 of the same essay: “J’entends par convivialité l’inverse de la productivité industrielle.” 20 Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor Network

Bruno Latour’s analysis of the “social” in his Actor Network Theory emphasizes

Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005),

the way that both human and non-human elements within a network may take on

204–5.

the role of a “mediator”: transporting, translating, and transforming the content

21 Félix Guattari, The Three

and the nature of the network’s links.20 Just like the “gardeners” themselves, our

Ecologies (London: Continuum,

socio-spatial and ecological devices have played the role of “mediators” in “making

2008).

a rhizome” of the projects. For example, the mobile urban kitchen developed at ECObox was used very successfully by a group of African women to attract the most diverse cross-section of users to the project, and to connect the garden with other spaces in the neighborhood as well as to imagined spaces suggested by the traditional recipes and ingredients that the women used. Other “mediators” emerged over time, including a shared library, flea markets, and artisan markets. These mediators influenced and differentiated the nature of the projects from which they had developed. Accordingly, we moved from

Rather than seeking to generate material value,

gardening-dominant activities and the free

a profit, our relational and co-operative practice

use of time toward cultural, political, and

tries to create the conditions for a liberating

poetic production and distribution. The

experience that can change both the space and

agent-users have in this process suggested

the subjects who use and experience the space.

new economic forms, stressing personal exchange, reciprocity and giving. Most of the organizers were women. For example, Marylin, Charlotte, Vera, and Catherine organized “honesty stalls,” markets, and “feminine” knowledge exchanges at ECObox. Anne-Marie, Elisabeth, Mathilde, and Krystin organized communal picnics, teas, and storytelling sessions at Passage 56. The network of actors and activities also forms ecological cycles in Guattari’s expanded sense: social, environmental, and mental.21 Such activities as gardening, DIY construction and recycling were developed from daily cycles that link people in space and time to topics of common concern, defined by friendships and shared interests. The spaces have thus become hubs for a network of users, making them more dynamic and reactive to changes. And these networks are themselves

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FIGURE 6: ECObox flea market. Photomontage: atelier d’architecture autogérée.

FIGURE 7: Vegetable distribution center organized by members of Passage 56 as part

of a Community Supported Agriculture scheme in the neighborhood. Photo: atelier d’architecture autogérée.

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sources of “resilience”—a term that in this context refers not only to adaptation to changing circumstances, but to supporting opportunities for transformation and reinvention, in the first place of individuals, and eventually at larger scales.22 Resilience thus takes on a political dimension in our projects, being related to practices of commoning. We believe that these processes would not be possible without the active mediation of women.

22 As environmental theorist and activist Rob Hopkins puts it: “Resilience is not just an outer process: it is also an inner one, of becoming more flexible, robust, and skilled.” Rob Hopkins, “Building Resilience: What Can Communities

As agents of conviviality in Illich’s sense, these women are thus carriers of a soft

Do?” in R. Heinberg and D.

and resilient revolution: they are “those who make a rhizome” and (re)conquer the

Lerch, eds., The Post Carbon

city’s territories by alliances and not by war, by transforming them into new forms of the commons, into shared spaces and temporalities. They are those who initiate and maintain—without any demands or need of gratitude—the infrastructure and

Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises (Healdsburg, CA: Watershed Media, 2010), 345.

ecological work of the commons. They are the humble gardeners of a rhizomatic reinvention of democracy in times of great change.

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WE STAY IN SAN ROQUE!

FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHT TO THE TERRITORY IN A POPULAR MARKET IN THE CITY OF QUITO, ECUADOR

Ana Rodríguez

1

Average growth rate

INTRODUCTION

for greater Quito district,

This paper explores the life of a popular market in the city of Quito, Ecuador,

including urban and outlying

focusing specifically on the process of political self-recognition and organiza-

areas, as of 2012 (Source: Plan Metropolitano de Desarrollo

tion among its key stakeholders in the face of recent development pressures. My

de Quito 2012–2022).

perspective on these matters stems from my role as an engaged researcher in the

2

Mike Davis, Planet of

Slums (New York: Verso Books, 2006). In recent years, Quito

neighborhood over the course of the past five years. In the following pages, I outline the physical, historical, and political context of the San Roque market in Quito.

has undergone an accelerated

I analyze the new forces that are affecting the market, and how some of its most

process of regularization of

pressing challenges are being addressed through political organization.

informal settlements, with 440 out of 580 such districts having been regularized since 2010 (author’s interview with Augusto Barrera, Mayor of Quito 2010–2015).

CONTEXT: QUITO AND ITS HISTORIC CENTER Quito is an ancient city, located nearly two miles up in the Andes, in a valley that lies at the foot of the Pichincha volcano. Owing to this unique geography, the urban development of Quito does not exhibit the typical pattern of concentric rings; instead it extends over some 25 miles from North to South, and three miles from East to West. Like many other cities in the Global South, however, Quito has grown rapidly in recent decades, and now has a population of 3 million, with a growth rate of about 3.2% per year.1 As urban theorist and activist Mike Davis has shown, rapid urbanization in Latin American cities has frequently led to high rates of segregation and large numbers of informal settlements—features that also characterize Quito.2 The result of these factors is an elongated urban sprawl: Quito constitutes a chain of centers and microcenters stretching along its North-South axis, including the historic and geographical center; the modern commercial and financial center, the focus of most recent real estate development; and a string of residential neighborhoods.

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In addition to its topography and geography, historical factors also help to explain the social fabric of the city and the relations among its privileged and more run-down areas. Quito derives from the word “Kitu” in the Kichwa language, indicating the presence of indigenous peoples in the area long before the arrival of European influences. Indeed, several different ethnic groups, including the Kitu Kara, Cayambi, and Yumbo peoples, among others, lived in the highland areas around modern-day Quito for centuries before the onset of the Inca invasions that came from the South; the Incas, in turn, had only been in the area for 70 years before the first Spanish conquistadors appeared. Many contemporary neighborhoods, districts, and outlying villages of the main city—La Magdalena and Chillogallo in the south; Calderon, Cotocollao and Pomasqui in the north, to name a few—are of pre-Incan origin. To a significant degree, therefore, Quito can be understood as an archipelago of these prehistoric villages and centers of power. Many descendants of the various indigenous groups to have populated the area still live in and around the city. In 1978, Quito’s historic center was declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO. The city itself is a major tourist destination—a main reason the neighborhood of San Roque, its market included, is an area that has been targeted by

FIGURE 1: Diagram of the San Roque market. Illustration: FDMMSR, Espacios de Esperanza, Red de Saberes.

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FIGURE 2: Fruit vendor, Loja street, outside San Roque market. Photo: Luis Herrera.

real estate investors. However, since the construction of the market in 1981, few public programs have focused specifically on supporting San Roque. Despite being owned by the municipality, the market’s buildings and other infrastructure have deteriorated, and some look almost abandoned. The market suffers from issues of access, mobility, and lack of public parking; problems connected to hygiene and waste treatment; a proliferation of people foraging in landfills adjacent to the market; vagrancy and begIn Quito, rapid urbanization has led

ging; stray dogs; the presence of legal brothels nearby,

to high rates of segregation and large

and of illegal but difficult-to-regulate street prostitu-

numbers of informal settlements.

tion. Negative media portrayals of the neighborhood, emphasizing the area’s homeless population as well as drug-related and violent crimes, have contributed

to its poor image. Indeed, San Roque is one of the few neighborhoods in the historic center of Quito which have not been included in the various schemes of urban improvement and heritage recovery over the last 30 years, despite its unique 19th-century buildings and a street plan dating back to the 16th century.

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The market of San Roque supports the activity of more than 5,000 workers, including some 3,000 wholesalers and retailers, 1,200 to 2,000 porters, 400 women grain-shellers, and 200 “rounders” (women who move around the market, selling small bags of produce and other products). More than half of these workers are indigenous Kichwa speakers, often originating from communities in the Andean sierra, especially from the provinces of Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, and Tungurahua. Drawn by the higher wages they can earn in the city (for example, a grain-sheller working six days a week can earn $250–400 per month), they help to support their families back home by sending money, food, and clothing. The market is open 364 days a year, closing only on New Year’s Day. Wholesalers’ trucks begin arriving in the evening to unload goods that will be sold in large quantities throughout the night. Retail sales begin by six o’clock in the morning. Vegetables, fruit, meat, prepared foods, medicinal herbs, live animals, furniture, and clothes are always on offer in the market. Diverse home-made specialties are displayed in stalls and in the corridors, and on the streets and parking lots surrounding the main market building. Some 22 vendors’ associations organize all this activity. THE DEFENSE AND MODERNIZATION FRONT OF THE MERCADO DE SAN ROQUE (FDMMSR) In February 2014, the then-President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, announced a project to erect a luxury hotel in the building of the former García Moreno Prison, located in front of the San Roque market. This announcement helped catalyze

FIGURE 3: Indigenous family shelling peas in the market. Photo: Luis Herrera.

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55


a process of self-recognition among the market’s stakeholders, one outcome of 3

I have worked with this

organization for the past four

which was the reactivation of the Frente de Defensa y Modernización del Mercado de San

years, first in my capacity

Roque (FDMMSR), a group representing thirteen of the vendors’ associations in the

as Director of the Fundación

market.3 Today, the FDMMSR seeks to protect the interests of buyers and sellers

Museos de la Ciudad de Quito (one of the city’s cultural

alike (and of many others whose livelihood depends directly or indirectly on San

agencies), and more recently

Roque’s market) from the potential repercussions of the hotel construction project.

as part of Red de Saberes por San Roque (Network of

Examples of such repercussions might include increased tourism in the neighbor-

Knowledge for San Roque),

hood with a consequent acceleration of speculative real estate development, and

an independent group of

new competition for the market’s vendors from large supermarket chains.

researchers and activists supporting the market and its various stakeholders.

Building a luxury hotel in San Roque would also entail a series of “urban renewal” projects with very specific goals: improving access and traffic; reducing crime, violence, and general insecurity in the neighborhood; and recuperating the natural and cultural heritages of the area to promote tourism. Notwithstanding some benefits associated with these ideas, the position of the FDMMSR has been that the current project pays insufficient attention to the unique cultural identity and rich history of the San Roque neighborhood. The vision of urban development proposed by President Correa was based on a model of urban renovation derived from other cities’ historic districts, including Boston’s. But given that San Roque is one of Quito’s oldest and most historically significant districts, and indeed, that Quito itself is a much older city than Boston, San Roque requires a very different approach to urban development—one that acknowledges and respects both its long history and its social complexity. A model of urban development should not simply be taken out of one context and superimposed onto another, very different, context.

A proposed luxury hotel construction project

In response to the government’s plan, the FDMMSR developed a counterproposal, calling

would likely bring repercussions including

for a reorganization of the market that would

increased tourism in San Roque, accelerated

include all the wholesalers and retailers, both

real estate speculation, and new competition

inside and outside the current physical struc-

for the neighborhood’s popular market from

ture; an appropriate program for tourism based

large supermarket chains.

on local foods and products; and the promotion of crafts and the trades of small producers. The prison, meanwhile, could be developed

as a communal space, with diverse uses matched to the needs of the inhabitants of the neighborhood. Some of these uses might include vocational programs for San Roque’s traders; training in the development of artisanal goods and traditional crafts; a cooperative production center; a health center including rehabilitation facilities for people struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, as well as a preventive medicine center serving the neighborhood’s many porters, shellers and other physical laborers; and a school for adults offering classes in Kichwa and in Spanish.

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The FDMMSR combined these ideas into a plan for the neighborhood of San Roque, which was presented to both the municipal and national governments for

4

Patric Hollenstein and

Pablo Ospina, “Relaciones

consideration. Authorities listened to the demands and decided to suspend the

equilibradas: el caso de

original project, with a view toward working on a more consistent program that

las redes productivas

would account for factors including tourism, interculturality, popular education, and other economic and social issues that directly affect the market and the wider neighborhood. The FDMMSR’s proposal also included rules for land use planning

de Tungurahua,” 2013 (repositorio.uasb.edu.ec/ handle/10644/3920); Pablo Ospina Peralta, Anthony Bebbington, Patric Hollenstein,

and for the control of surplus value generated in the San Roque market and its

Ilana Nussbaum and Eduardo

environs, to be addressed in new, more specific laws.

Ramírez, “Extraterritorial Investments, Environmental Crisis, and Collective Action

As mentioned, the hotel project would probably increase the presence of supermarkets in the San Roque neighborhood, bringing a series of potentially negative

in Latin America,” World Development Vol. 73 (2015): 32–43.

consequences for its inhabitants. The last few years have already seen a rapid proliferation of supermarket chains in Ecuador.4 This phenomenon has led in turn to the emergence of specialized wholesalers, who can marshal the necessary capital to source products in high volumes from large producers or from cooperatives of small- and medium-size producers, and to maintain the storage facilities and distribution networks required to serve the retail chains at the low prices demanded by the chains. Unfortunately, these developments could potentially lead to reduced consumer choice, since products sourced in this way tend to come from a limited number of suppliers—a fact that potentially threatens the diversity of products offered by popular markets like San Roque’s. The chain stores also put downward pressure on prices, making it more and more difficult for small-scale dealers to remain competitive. Finally, the emergence of big supermarket chains both reflects and accelerates the ongoing urbanization of the Ecuadorean population. There are fewer and fewer farmers and peasants working the land in traditional ways, which further reduces the diversity of sources of produce available at San Roque and the other popular markets across Quito and the country. Together, these interrelated trends represent a direct threat to the San Roque market and the way of life it offers to its stakeholders: vendors, laborers, and customers alike. In response to the threat posed by large and non-local supermarket chains, the FDMMSR has proposed the empowerment of the federation of popular markets of Quito, with specific initiatives aimed at strengthening market protections for independent dealers and smaller chains, and the imposition of limits on the establishment of supermarkets in the immediate vicinity of the city’s popular markets. As noted above, the government’s 2014 proposal to “rehabilitate” the San Roque neighborhood with new tourist amenities like a luxury hotel helped stimulate a slow but growing self-awareness among the various stakeholders of San Roque’s market, particularly those whose livelihoods depend directly on the market. The

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57


FIGURE 4: Indigenous women processing beans, San Roque market parking lot. Photo: Luis Herrera.

FDMMSR has been one manifestation of this self-awakening. This organization reflects an increasing awareness of the many social and political strengths embodied in the market: the sheer number of traders and workers who gain their livelihoods there; the enormous diversity of products that are sold there; the different constituencies that make up the market’s social fabric; the high levels of customer service and the ongoing relationships that develop between buyers and sellers; the ability of the market to accommodate both larger-volume merchants and smaller, niche dealers, as well as the independent merchants who sell their wares on the streets adjacent to San Roque, not belonging to the market as such but still benefitting from the foot traffic it generates and contributing to the overall range of goods on offer to customers; and the general integration of the market’s activities within the rhythms and patterns of life in the surrounding city. An important current challenge of the group is to find ways to include other stakeholders, beyond the sellers that make up its current main membership. Reaching out to some of these groups, such as the porters, grain-shellers, and rounders, has had mixed results to date, with some groups officially joining the FDMMSR and others debating this decision internally.

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T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


Along with researchers affiliated with Red de Saberes, The FDMMSR has also analyzed some of the main problems associated with the market, including internal communication problems among the leadership of the market’s various associations; low levels of political legitimacy that some of these leadership figures possess among their own constituents; a lack of participatory mechanisms,

Any development plan for the San

which further complicates the interaction among the

Roque neighborhood must take into

members and the leaders of the market’s associa-

account its long and rich history and its

tions; a need for greater cohesion and grassroots

social complexity.

engagement, coupled with the absence of a larger strategy to defend the work of the FDMMSR against politicians who might seek to use the group’s activities to sow distrust among the market’s different stakeholder groups; and a general lack of information on matters pertaining to the market, including technical or academic studies of the San Roque market and of similar popular markets in other countries. The findings of this analysis of the inner workings of the San Roque market has led the FDMMSR to pursue three specific goals: to work internally to strengthen the organization; to reach out to develop strategic alliances with entities outside the organization; and to maintain pressure on the public authorities with a view to promoting understanding of the continuing value of the market, giving voice to its stakeholders’ ideas and requests, and creating more participatory mechanisms for the group’s ongoing management and governance of San Roque generally. Red de Saberes has also begun to circulate information that the FDMMSR has uncovered

FIGURE 5: Porters, San Roque market. Photo: Luis Herrera.

W E S TAY IN SA N RO QUE!

59


5

Henri Lefebvre, Le Droit

à la ville (Paris: Éditions Anthropos, 1968).

and organized regarding the market, to reinforce shared understandings of what happens there and what is at stake, and to build new allies inside and outside the market. All of our group’s major points were shared in a letter to President Rafael Correa that contained a summarized version of the plan, along with specific requests that any hotel development project be pursued in a participatory way, and that the government avoid either the violent or silent displacement of the San Roque market, as happened, for example, with the popular market La Parada in the city of Lima, Peru. CONCLUSION More than forty years ago, Henri Lefebvre outlined a multidisciplinary field of study, in the context of the division of labor and specialization of fields of knowledge, which condemned the extant discipline of “urban studies” as a technical tool in the service of the real estate industry, and therefore as unable to comprehend the complexity of modern cities.5 Today, the interdisciplinary character of knowledge in relation to urban communities is more widely recognized. The actions pursued by the FDMMSR, supported by the research group Red de Saberes, exemplify the kind of multifaceted analytical and political work necessary to grasp complex contemporary urban issues and operate effectively in countering negative trends and promoting justice, especially for constituencies that are easily overlooked in mainstream political discussions. In response to our group’s counterproposal regarding the development of the San Roque market, Ecuador’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Development agreed to be more inclusive in articulating its development plans, to be more attentive to the specific character and history of the territory, and to involve consultants that understood the complexity of the undertaking. It is true that as of today, the municipal authorities continue to devote inadequate resources to the market, and that its diverse stakeholder groups remain divided on some crucial points. Nevertheless, the FDMMSR, with Red de Saberes serving as a strategic adviser, continues to work together with city leaders, maintaining a focus on the market—which still supplies 30% of Quito’s food—and on the local, regional, and global forces that

FIGURE 6: Members of the FDMMSR leadership, 2013. Photo: Luis Herrera.

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T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


FIGURE 7: San Roque market with the hill known as El Panecillo in the background. Photo: Luis Herrera.

intersect in San Roque. Ultimately, the most viable way forward may be to make some changes to the market, not as a simple capitulation to capitalism but in order

6

The forum was organized

by the FDMMSR, Red de

to influence how market forces are allowed to affect San Roque’s development in

Saberes, Universidad Central

the years to come. As FDMMSR president Blanca Chicaiza, following a suggestion

del Ecuador and CENEDET

by the leading urban theorist David Harvey, put the point in a recent community forum on the future of San Roque: “We will fight and transform ourselves to be stronger. And why not become a tourist market—but one that does not replace

(Centro Nacional de Estrategia para el Derecho al Territorio), during Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable

us, but instead one that we control .... And if supermarkets pressure us, why not

Urban Development, which

become a supermarket also, but a completely different kind of supermarket:

took place in Quito in October

not one owned by a transnational monopoly but a cooperative one. Our popular supermarket.”6

2016. The forum on the future of the San Roque market, organized by Red de Saberes and CENEDET with the support of professor Harvey, has taken place each year since 2013.

W E S TAY IN SA N RO QUE!

61


WORKING TOGETHER: TOWARD IMAGINED COOPERATION IN RESISTANCE Elke Krasny “Communities of resistance,” like “imagined communities,” is a political definition, 1

Chandra Talpade Mohanty,

Feminism Without Borders:

not an essentialist one.1

Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 47. 2

On eviction see Rosalyn

Deutsch, Evictions: Art and

Contemporary cities worldwide are marked by accelerated processes of far-reaching transformation. Prevailing logics of accumulation, growth, and profit, together with policies of neoliberal governance, have led to fierce competition between as well as

Spatial Politics (Cambridge,

within cities, between neighborhoods as well as within neighborhoods. Ultimately,

MA: MIT Press, 1996). On

competition renders cities divided. And these divisions, caused by uneven growth,

dispossession see Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou,

are expressed in a variety of ways: socio-economic, cultural, and spatial. Urban

Dispossession: The

dwellers worldwide are forced to compete for jobs, housing, education, mobility,

Performative in the Political (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press,

and other resources necessary to modern living. Moreover, large parts of urban

2013). On expulsion see Saskia

populations across the globe face challenges including eviction, dispossession,

Sassen, Expulsion: Brutality

expulsion, and precarization, often made worse by government “austerity” pro-

and Complexity in the Global Economy (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2014). On precarization see Isabell Lorey, State of Insecurity: Government of

grams.2 Extensive spatial and social division combined with brutal competition can reinforce existing fault lines between social groups. In short, for millions of urban dwellers worldwide, every day is a struggle.

the Precarious (London: Verso, 2015). On austerity see KerryAnne Mendoza, Austerity:

The transformations affecting urban landscapes around the globe are not abstract;

The Demolition of the Welfare

they are lived. We are experiencing aspects of such transformations, for example,

State and the Rise of the

as we live through the dissolution of the European welfare state, and witness how

Zombie Economy (Oxford: New Internationalist, 2015).

racist and xenophobic politics increasingly targets immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Given the scale of the problems that need solving, attempts to maintain a critical practice can seem small and insignificant. One result is that “political depression is pervasive within recent histories of decolonization, civil rights,

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T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


socialism and labor politics,” and those committed to progressive political and social change must find ways “to come to terms with disappointment, failure, and the slowness of change.”3 Even though the contemporary conditions lend

3

Ann Cvetkovich,

Depression: A Public Feeling (Durham: Duke University

themselves to the deepest political depression and often seem to be beyond repair,

Press, 2012), 7.

I strongly feel that finding and testing ways of working together is a sign of not

4

giving up and of not giving in. And notwithstanding the prevailing conditions of

On cooperation see

Richard Sennett, Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics

predatory urban transformation, xenophobic politics, and a gloomy sense of the

of Cooperation (New York:

failure of critical or utopian thinking, twenty-first century cities are also places

Penguin, 2013).

where the emergence of resistant urban communities is occurring—in particular

5

4

through the testing out of new forms of cooperation. In what follows I will use an

Sabine Bitter, curator’s

introduction, exhibition brochure for Mapping the

example of my work as an urban curator to discuss cooperation in the context of

Everyday: Neighbourhood

feminist activism, art making, community self-organization, and resistance.

Claims for the Future, Nov. 17, 2011 – Feb. 25, 2012, unpaginated.

The 2011– 12 project Mapping the Everyday: Neighbourhood Claims for the Future in

6

Mapping the Everyday

Vancouver, British Columbia involved a cooperation between the Audain Gallery,

was among the city’s official

a part of Simon Fraser University; the women’s shelter and social service and

anniversary celebration

advocacy agency Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre (DEWC); and myself as an

events.

Audain Visual Artist In Residence for 2011. The gallery and the women’s center are located within walking distance of each other in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighborhood—a juxtaposition that well illustrates the systemic impacts, for better and for worse, of rapid urban transformation. A relatively recent arrival, the university is not considered truly part of the Downtown Eastside community by many longtime residents. As the exhibition brochure noted, “Since Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts and the Audain Gallery moved in the Fall of 2010 to the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, often described as the poorest postal code in Canada, questions of gentrification, representation, site-specificity, and research ethics have become crucial.”5 Mapping the Everyday: Neighborhood Claims for the Future was an attempt to address some of these questions by establishing a connection between the Audain Gallery and the Downtown Eastside Women’s

Twenty-first century cities are places

Centre through a process of cooperation.

where the emergence of resistant urban communities is occurring—in

Vancouver has been the scene of territorial contests

particular through the testing out of

since long before the recent wave of gentrification that

new forms of cooperation.

included Simon Fraser’s campus extension. To begin with, the city itself—which recently celebrated its 125th anniversary6—rests on ancestral aboriginal lands that were never formally ceded, whether through treaty or surrender. More recently, the city of Vancouver embarked in 2004 on an ambitious redevelopment program for the Downtown Eastside neighborhood, including various demolition and renovation projects, construction of new market-rate as well as publically subsidized housing units, and the extensive

WO RKIN G T O G E T HER

63


addition to Simon Fraser University’s downtown campus. Numerous aspects of the 7

Richard Blomley, Rights

of Passage: Sidewalks and the

city’s plans have been the subject of complaints and protests throughout the rede-

Regulation of Public Flow (New

velopment process. Even the details of the university’s move into the neighborhood

York: Routledge, 2011), 1.

were controversial: the building it chose to house its art school and gallery was the Woodward’s Building, a landmark structure fraught with historical significance as a site of struggle over control of urban spaces. Originally built in 1903 for the Woodward’s Department Store, the building had stood empty after the company filed for bankruptcy in 1993. But in 2002, a group of anti-poverty activists occupied the Woodward’s building, leading to a highly-publicized standoff with the government over gentrification in the Downtown Eastside. The activists deployed “the language of rights, social justice and insurgent citizenship” to make their case, eventually obliging the city to use the police to arrest the occupiers and force them to leave.7 The Audain Gallery, in other words, is part of a major and highly controversial process of gentrification currently underway in downtown Vancouver. And this fact could lead to doubts regarding even the possibility of cooperation between the gallery and some of the neighborhood’s older institutions and residents. Especially given the long history of community activism and resistance in the Downtown Eastside, a productive cooperation between the Audain Gallery and the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre was not a forgone conclusion. On the contrary, it had to be worked toward. Despite their proximity to each other, the DEWC and the University really represent different worlds. To take a simple example, despite being open to the public, the Audain Gallery is also contained within the general security apparatus of Simon Fraser University, and hence is governed by logics of identification and exclusion. Visitors to the gallery have to get past the guards patrolling the grounds and statinoned at the front door. In general, therefore, the art gallery and its environs occupy what has become a privileged space, a space that registers or thematizes the people moving through it along the binary axis of “belonging”/“not belonging.” For their part, meanwhile, the people that the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre serves are all too familiar with being made to feel that they don’t belong. These women are in many cases victims of poverty, racism, and violence, who are struggling to meet basic needs in the areas of housing, employment, healthcare or educational opportunities. They are the kind of people who can end up on the losing end of big urban development deals such as Vancouver’s that seek to “rescue” districts whose cachet (and tax receipts) have declined in recent decades. Thanks to Sabine Bitter, then the curator of the Audain Gallery, and to Cecily Nicholson, who has worked with the DEWC since 2000 and was a coordinator there at the time of our project, cooperation between the two institutions was made

64

T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


possible. Cooperation is always difficult; and only if the concrete circumstances, with all their conflicts and contradictions, are taken into account, can working together help move all parties toward an imagined cooperation in resistance. This is what we attempted, and risked, when we entered the process of cooperation between the Audain Gallery and the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.

Despite their proximity to each other, the Downtown Eastside Women’s

The curatorial concept I proposed for the exhibit was an

Centre and the University really

archival mapping of the history of the Centre. Though

represent different worlds.

lacking a formal archive, the DEWC has kept copies of its newsletter, issued every month since 1978. These documents served as the basis for the mapping. A series of workshops at the DEWC led to the formation of an ad-hoc group by some of the women of the Centre, and created the opportunity to look through and reflect upon the archival materials. The team settled on some 200 claims and demands that had been published in the newsletter over the years, organizing them by their original publication dates. For the exhibit, the chronological list of the demands and claims captured in the DEWC newsletter was installed directly onto the walls of the Audain Gallery, forming a horizon line circling the gallery space in its entirety (see Figure 1). The installation thus created a sort of temporal map of the everyday concerns and circumstances of the women served by the DEWC, some concerns evolving over time and others remaining depressingly similar. An intensifying focus on gentrification in the newsletter coincided with the rollout of the city’s redevelopment initiatives for the Downtown Eastside. Some of the claims and demands included in the exhibit are reproduced here along with their original publication dates: •

Stop Violence Against Women (1980)

You Are Not Forgotten (1982)

Create a Powerful Force of Change (1984)

Know Your Rights workshop (1984)

Support One Another (1985)

We are the Seers, the Healers, the Warriors (1985)

Gather Together (1986)

Ongoing Social Action (1986)

Share Your Memories (1987)

Decrease the Grief (1987)

Grassroots Fundraising (1987)

Information and Support Sharing (1987)

We Announce Our Solidarity (1988)

Tenants’ Rights Workshop (1988)

WO RKIN G T O G E T HER

65


8 Mohanty, Feminism Without Borders, 229–30.

66

No Homophobia (1989)

No Racism (1989)

Fight City Hall (1989)

Menopause Support Group (1989)

Clean and Sober Group meeting (1989)

Impossible Takes a Little Longer (1990)

Justice for Missing and Murdered Women (1990)

Sisters in Spirit (1990)

Justice for Residential School Survivors (1990)

Aboriginal Celebrations and Ceremonies (1991)

We Are Committed to Justice (1992)

A Safe Place for Women (1994)

Grief and Loss Support (1995)

Stop the War on the Poor! (1996)

Healing Circle (1999)

End Legislated Poverty (1999)

Learn how to make something from nothing (stone soup) (2000)

We Must Stand Together for Peace, Justice, Freedom, and Equality (2001)

Honour our Sisters and Grandmothers (2001)

Sisters Resist (2001)

There is joy in the struggle (2002)

We Demand an Inquiry into the Missing Women (2008)

Social Housing, Healthcare and Childcare Now! (2008)

No More Evictions and No More Condos! (2008)

Stop Criminalizing the Poor (2008)

Stop Police Brutality (2009)

In Our Own Voices (2010)

No Olympics on Stolen Native Land! (2010)

Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown (2010)

We will be marching to demand action on women’s safety (2011)

Housing For All (2011)

Social Housing, Child Care and Health Care for All! (2011)

No more evictions and no more gentrification in the Downtown Eastside! (2011)

Downtown Eastside is Not for Developers (2011)

Many Paths of Our Resistance (2011)

T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


Chandra Talpade Mohanty has critically analyzed the effects of “discursive colo-

9 Mohanty, Feminism

nization on the lives and struggles of marginalized women.” Part of what was at

Without Borders, 47.

stake in Mapping the Everyday: Neighbourhood Claims for the Future was the inherent

10 Mohanty, Feminism

8

danger of reproducing unequal power relations connected to the area’s colonial

Without Borders, 46.

history. In order to avoid the pitfalls of representational reductionism or discursive colonialism, an urban curatorial project like ours had to rely on differentiated cooperation based upon a praxis of attentiveness, care, and listening. Accordingly, throughout the exhibition, which ran from November 17, 2011 to February 25, 2012, the gallery space was regularly used as a site to test out cooperative actions. Past, present and future forms of struggles and resistance were discussed by various community groups from the neighborhood. For example, the local artist collective desmedia hosted a number of public debates about obstacles to achieving greater social equity. Another local artist group, red diva projects, together with a group of women from the DEWC, used the claims and demands in the exhibit as the basis for a new, collaboratively created rendering of the claims that culminated in a participatory performance in the gallery space. A third art collective, Coupe, conducted a Wednesday Night School during the exhibit that introduced critical texts on art and gentrification (see Figures 2–3). Mohanty compares the notion of “communities of resistance” to that of “imagined communities,” 9 going on to state that the idea of imagined community is useful [….] It is not color or sex that constructs the ground for these struggles. Rather, it is the way we think about race, class, and gender [….] Thus, potentially women of all colors (including white women) can align themselves with and participate in these imagined communities.10 Imagined communities result from working together—working together toward imagined cooperation. Thus, working together cannot be taken for granted as something inherent to communities as such. Working together is also not merely the efficient performance of a labor regimen, but a process that works out a politics of cooperation. It is important to emphasize the Latin roots of the word: co and operare. The prefix co means together, in partnership, in equality, while the verb operare means to work. Therefore, cooperation refers to work done together, in equality. Mapping the Everyday: Neighbourhood Claims for the Future sought to sketch or

WO RKIN G T O G E T HER

67


FIGURE 1: Mapping the Everyday: Neighbourhood Claims for the Future, curated

by Elke Krasny. Installation view. Photo: Kevin Schmidt.

FIGURE 2: “Collective Futures in the Downtown Eastside”: panel discussion held on

November 26, 2011 as part of the Mapping the Everyday exhibition. Photo: Kevin Schmidt.

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T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


Mapping the Everyday sought to adumbrate a politics of cooperation based upon horizontality, relationality, and alignment across difference.

FIGURE 3: Marie Clements and Michelle St John of red diva projects, along with women from the

Downtown Eastside Women Centre: performance on February 25, 2012 as part of the Mapping the Everyday exhibition. Photo: Kevin Schmidt.

WO RKIN G T O G E T HER

69


11 The author wishes to acknowledge the women who

adumbrate a politics of cooperation in this sense: a politics based upon horizontality, relationality, and alignment across difference. In order not to simply capitulate to

participated in reviewing the

the far-reaching precarization resulting from the ongoing processes of urban trans-

DEWC archive and compiling

formation—in order, that is, not to give in to political depression—time and space

the list of claims and demands featured in the exhibition:

for practicing imagined cooperation in resistance is needed. Even though many

Terri Marie, Karen Lahey,

consider art making or curating either unproductive or co-opted, or both, I think

Debbie Ventura, Dalannah Gail Bowen, Sue Zhao, Sara,

these are precisely the kinds of context that can still offer time and space for working

Ramona, Pat Haram, Audrey,

together toward imagined cooperation. And it is from allowing people to witness an

Joan Morelli, Shurli Chan,

archive of resistance like the installation of the claims from the Downtown Eastside

Stirling, Stella August, and Beatrice Starr.

Women’s Centre, and from creating memories of performances and debates in spaces both intimate and public like the Audain Gallery, that ongoing and future work toward imagined cooperation in resistance can be sustained and nourished.11

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T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


PUTTING THE SOLIDARITY ECONOMY ON THE MAP

Maliha Safri, Stephen Healy, Craig Borowiak, and Marianna Pavlovskaya

MAPPING ECONOMIES Over the past 20 years, the term “solidarity economy” (SE) has come to refer to eco-

1

See Duncan Fuller,

Andrew E. G. Jonas, and

nomic activities that seek to prioritize “people and planet,” as opposed to private

Roger Lee, eds., Interrogating

profit maximization over all else. The organizations, enterprises, and practices

Alterity: Alternative Economic

comprising the solidarity economy tend to be collectively and democratically run

and Political Spaces (London: Ashgate, 2010).

for the benefit of their members. While the activities associated with the solidarity economy do not preclude turning a profit (or generating surplus), nor do they necessarily require disengaging from market exchange, they do usually exhibit a substantial alignment with ethical principles of social equity and solidarity, environmental sustainability, and pluralist democracy. Put most simply, there is something we could characterize as non-capitalist about these organizations.1 The table in Figure 1 represents examples of typical SE organizational forms in the contexts of production, consumption, distribution and exchange, finance, and governance (see Figure 1). In many parts of the world, the SE has significant impacts on local and regional economies. However, these impacts have been largely unrecognized by policymakers and community members alike, since people are generally unfamiliar with the SE concept—and in some places are unaccustomed to seeing solidarity-based provisioning as economic activity at all. For example, SE initiatives are altering local economic landscapes in the United States (as elsewhere), yet they typically fall outside of mainstream studies of the economy, which tend to focus instead on federal and state budgets, for-profit capitalist enterprises, and the market economy. In the U.S. specifically, relatively little empirical research has been done to evaluate the

PU T T IN G T HE S O LIDA RI T Y ECO N O MY O N T HE M A P

71


PRODUCTION

CONSUMPTION

DISTRIBUTION/ EXCHANGE

FINANCE

GOVERNANCE

Worker cooperatives

Producer cooperatives

Buying clubs

Community development credit unions

Participatory budgeting

Volunteer collectives

• • •

• •

Credit unions

• •

Collective management of community resources

Community gardens

Affordable housing cooperatives

Collectives of self-employed

Community land trusts

Solidarity economy support organizations/ networks

• •

Unpaid care work

Consumer cooperatives

Co-housing Intentional communities

Fair trade networks Community supported agriculture/ fisheries

Alternative currencies

• • •

Barter networks Free-cycle networks Time banks

Peer Lending

Babysitting/ childcare clubs

FIGURE 1: Solidarity Economy Typology.

2

For a review of some

recent mapping projects, see

contribution of the SE to local economies. Our research deploys mixed methods at different scales to address and remediate this gap in our understanding.

Maliha Safri, “The Politics of Mapping Solidarity Economies and Diverse Economies in Brazil and the Northeastern United States,” in Gerda Roelvink, ed., Making Other Worlds Possible:

In recent years, practitioners and researchers of the solidarity economy have shown a great interest in the idea of “mapping.”2 One impetus for the new focus has come from a growing appreciation of mapping as a creative activity, as opposed to being a merely passive means for reflecting a preexistent reality. Geographic scholarship

Performing Diverse Economies

in particular has come to investigate the ontological power of mapping—that

(Minneapolis: University

is, the ways maps help to make specific human landscapes real by making them

of Minnesota Press, 2015), 296–321; Craig Borowiak, “Mapping Social and Solidarity Economy: the Local and Translocal Evolution of a

visible.3 Not being indicated within the mapped territory leads to conceptual obscurity and marginalization (besides the SE, examples include the invisibility, hence theoretical neglect, of the informal economy, domestic work, or indigenous

Concept,” in P. Ngai, B. H. Ku,

knowledge), whereas being on the map requires articulation in theory, policy, and

H. Yan and A. Koo, eds., Social

practice. As a consequence, solidarity economy practitioners and scholars around

Economy in China and the World (New York: Routledge,

the world are turning to mapping as a way to help constitute this economy, making

2015), 17–40.

it visible and including it in our social imaginary. In our work, too, we seek to put

3

the solidarity economy of the U.S. “on the map,” constructing it ontologically and

Marianna Pavlovskaya,

“Theorizing with GIS: A tool for critical geographies?”

opening up a terrain for theoretical examination and political action.

Environment and Planning Vol. 38, no. 11 (2006): 2003–2020.

Here, we report preliminary results of our National Science Foundation-funded

4

research projects in New York City, Philadelphia, Worcester, Massachusetts, rural

NSF awards BCS 1339748

(PI Safri), BCS 1339846 (PI Healy), BCS 1339974 (PI

Western Massachusetts, and nationally.4 In combination with other research

Borowiak), BCS 1340030 (PI

methods, mapping and spatial analysis can be used to reveal geographic patterns

Pavlovskaya).

in the solidarity economy. By identifying patterns in cities marked by race, income,

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T HE JOURN A L OF DE SI G N S T R AT EG IE S


Solidarity economy practitioners and scholars around the world are turning to mapping as a way to help make it visible and include it in our social imaginary.

gender, and class divisions, we can then examine the economic and social relations that have shaped the geographies of the economic arrangements. Another of our goals has been to assess the regional economic impact of nonprofit SE entities. Finally, we have created and begun to populate an internet-based open access platform including an interactive mapping tool, thus establishing a repository of information for researchers and educators and contributing to the SE’s growing visibility and consolidation. To gain access to the diverse solidarity economy communities in New York, Philadelphia, and Worcester, we partnered with community-based organizations and networks working within these communities. Our participatory methodological approach transformed the composition of our research questions and accordingly shaped the results we obtained. In the remainder of this report, we concentrate on one interesting outcome from our nationwide study, as well as on a few preliminary place-based findings. RESEARCHING SOLIDARITY ECONOMIES IN NEW YORK CITY, PHILADELPHIA, AND WORCESTER, MASS: MULTIPLE SITES, MULTIPLE METHODS Our research includes several different components. First, as noted, we are creating a single, national-level spatial database of SE initiatives that can help researchers understand factors including the extent, composition, and geographic distribution of these initiatives in different parts of the country. This database will be used to contextualize our in-depth cases and to identify macro-level contours of the SE across the U.S. Second, we are generating detailed inventories and spatial databases of SE entities in three urban sites of different size, and in one rural area: New York City (pop. 8.2 million), Philadelphia (pop. 1.5 million), Worcester, Massachusetts (pop. 180,000), and rural Western Massachusetts. We also cross-checked the location of various SE enterprises with U.S. Census data to analyze the distribution of these organizations with respect to racial and income patterns. Third, we continue to conduct surveys and in-depth qualitative interviews with practitioners in different SE sectors in our research sites. The result of these multiple undertakings is a set of tools for raising the visibility of the spatial and economic footprint of diverse economic activities that prioritize social and environmental considerations at least as much as, if not more than, profit.

PU T T IN G T HE S O LIDA RI T Y ECO N O MY O N T HE M A P

73


NATIONAL GEOGRAPHY OF SE AND THE 5

Rob Eletto and Marianna

MAPPING PLATFORM

Pavlovskaya, “Geographies of Ethical Finance: Credit Unions

At the national level, the sheer extent of some segments of the solidarity economy

in New York City,” (unpub-

can be astonishing. For example, the number of credit unions in the country is

lished manuscript). 6

about the same as the number of private banks. Moreover, the U.S. has the world’s

Craig Borowiak, Maliha

highest level of credit union membership, encompassing almost two-thirds of the

Safri, Stephen Healy,

working age population.5 In one form or another, the SE is present in all parts of

Marianna Pavlovskaya, “Navigating the Fault

the U.S., despite remaining largely unacknowledged. As mentioned above, one

Lines: Race and Class in Philadelphia's Solidarity

significant aim of our research has been to develop a national SE mapping plat-

Economy,” Antipode (forth-

form that is publicly available and practically useful for a variety of purposes. This

coming); see also Craig

platform launched in June 2015 (see Figure 2).

Borowiak, “Mapping the Social Demographics of Cooperatives in Philadelphia and Madison,”

The mapping platform draws on and represents data from our national spatial

in Craig Borowiak, Richardson Dilworth, and Anne Reynolds,

database of the SE, itself built from several national and local datasets provided

eds., Exploring Cooperatives:

by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Credit Union Association,

Economic Democracy and

and several other local research partners. The mapping platform is designed to

Community Development in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin

provide a user-friendly way to search for and find solidarity economy initiatives

(Madison, WI: University of

all across the country. Hence, the platform was designed both for local consum-

Wisconsin-Extension, 2015),

ers, businesses, and organizations and for academic researchers. Local users

13–23.

can search for specific organizations in a particular area, while researchers can analyze geographic patterns exhibited by the SE at different scales. The map is thus intended to serve multiple functions: first, to make various SE activities visible to consumers, businesses, activists, and policy-makers; second, to contribute to the construction of supply chains in which economic actors intentionally source from one another in order to foster alternative development relations A national database and map provides a user-friendly

(e.g. cooperatives sourcing from one another); and third, to provide comprehensive data for researchers interested in analyzing the organizations and practices of the solidarity economy.

way to search for and find solidarity economy initiatives

PHILADELPHIA

all across the country.

Philadelphia is the site in which the highest number of unique organizational forms were mapped. Borowiak’s research in that city finds over 470 community gardens, two community land trusts, nine time banks and alternative exchange networks, 18 housing cooperatives and intentional communities, nine worker cooperatives, seven consumer cooperatives, 107 credit union branches, 17 community supported agricultural farms having 149 pick-up locations, one fair trade organization, and over 30 other cooperatives and collectives.6 In conducting his research, Borowiak partnered with local organizations, including the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA), The Reinvestment Fund, and the Garden Justice Legal Initiative, as well as with other

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FIGURE 2: Internet-based mapping platform indicating select sectors of the national U.S. solidarity economy.

Clusters of SE enterprises are represented by circle icons with numbers; the color and size of the icon changes with the number of organizations contained in each cluster. Individual organizations are marked with icons that represent various economic sectors, although users can search by many other criteria in addition to these sector categories. Source: Solidarity Economy Mapping Project.

local researchers. Using Geographic Information Systems methods, he spatially analyzed the SE entities’ locations against demographic data on race and class.

7

Borowiak et al.,

“Navigating the Fault Lines.”

The resulting maps yield some interesting discoveries, one being that the solidarity economy as a whole has a significant footprint in Philadelphia. Arguably more important, however, are the ways that the maps illuminate social relations in the city—a key issue for social movement actors. For instance, once the credit unions are separated out from the rest of the analysis, housing, worker, food, artist, and childcare cooperatives are virtually absent from neighborhoods with the deepest poverty, and from those with the highest concentrations of racial minorities. However, neither do these SE organizations cluster in the higher-income, predominantly white neighborhoods. The maps instead reveal patterns of cooperatives clustering within border zones between rich and poor, and between white, Black, and Latino neighborhoods.7

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FIGURE 3: Philadelphia map showing residential distribution of Black population and presence of cooperatives

and collectives (excluding credit unions). Source: Borowiak et al., “Navigating the Fault Lines.�

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Borowiak’s important work raises more questions than can be currently answered: Why do SE enterprises tend to locate in these border areas? What supportive conditions may exist in these neighborhoods, helping to elicit such practices? Meanwhile, some racial patterns were to be expected in Philadelphia, given its deeply segregated city structure, but the results serve both to neutralize some criticisms of the SE movement, while also raising some troubling new questions

8

Borowiak et al.,

“Navigating the Fault Lines.” 9

Marianna Pavlovskaya,

“To be or not to be on the map? Visibility and secrecy within the solidarity economy” (paper presentation

for the movement. The formal SE’s absence in the most racially homogenous

for the annual meeting of

neighborhoods—whether Black, Latino, or white—suggests that it is not sim-

the American Association of

ply a movement that primarily helps white people (as is sometimes alleged by

Geographers, Chicago, IL, April 21–25, 2015).

critics from the political left), but neither is it a movement that to date has been successfully extended into the poorest and most homogenously Black and Latino neighborhoods. While the former point bolsters defenses against critique or dismissal of the SE, the latter finding is a source of some concern to a movement having stated goals of equity and pluralism. If social action and public policy are to help redress racial and class inequities, the absence of these organizations across large swaths of Philadelphia is not a good sign. It is important not to overinterpret the geographical data. The specific locations of some SE organizations, for example, may not accurately reflect their effective geographic reach (think of a home care cooperative that delivers services to customers in their homes across a wide area, or a large community garden that draws participants from across the city). We may also be missing solidarity economy, or non-capitalist, practices that occur more routinely in communities of color. For example, Borowiak finds more community gardens growing edible crops in poorer (and also in Latino) communities than in medium and high-income communities.8 Furthermore, there is reason to believe that some nonmarket practices, such as informal childcare networks and cooperatives, and alternative practices such as the zero-interest lending arrangements maintained by certain immigrant groups, may generate significant but difficult-to-quantify positive impacts on their participants’ lives. The informality of these practices makes them more challenging to capture in our research. Additionally, when the practices skirt boundaries of formality or legality, outright identification can sometimes actually jeopardize participants. This has meant that our mapping project necessarily and intentionally refrains from visualizing certain activities and enterprises. For instance, we know there are at least some community gardens on squatted or illegally occupied land—gardens which could be endangered if their legal status were made clearly visible. To map in this case might actually undermine the goal of social empowerment. Hence, we are careful to represent only those sites that would not be put into legal jeopardy by being made public, even though incomplete maps occlude some SE practices, perhaps especially in certain low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.9

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WORCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS 10 See Suzanne Bergeron and Stephen Healy, “Beyond

In Worcester, Healy deployed an in-depth interview approach to illuminate solidarity

the Business Case: A

economy practices and participant motivations there. Using a purposive sampling

Community Economics

technique, he conducted 30 interviews with representatives from worker coopera-

Approach to Gender, Development and Social

tives, housing cooperatives, community governance organizations, and volunteer

Economy,” in Peter Utting, ed.,

collectives, in addition to representatives from community supported agriculture

Social and Solidarity Economy: Beyond the Fringe? (London: Zed Books, 2015).

initiatives, time banks and community gardens. Worcester has been an epicenter for solidarity economy organizing statewide, hosting annual organizing conferences since 2011 as well as the 2015 East Coast Work Place Democracy Conference. Our research identified Worcester Roots, an organization created a decade ago by graduates of Clark University’s International Development Community and Environment program, as a solidarity economy hub. Founder Matt Feinstein explained how the organization’s focus has evolved from environmental justice in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color to cooperative economic development. Central to its expanding mission was the establishment of Stone Soup, a community center that provides a collaborative space for progressive organizing in the city. As part of its commitment to providing space for some 15 other cooperatives and political action groups, Stone Soup created a community land trust, securing below-market rents for its tenants. In turn, these successes have contributed to the proliferation of other solidarity economy activities in the area. Three encountered in our research were a live-in artisan collective which houses 40 artists including metal and ceramic workers; a carpentry

The solidarity economy may in effect

shop; and a commercial greenhouse. It is obvious, therefore, that “incubating spaces” such as Worcester Roots

produce a moment of democratic

and Stone Soup can play an important role in cooperative

“dissensus”: an interruption of the

development and generation within a community.

received ideology, pervasive in the U.S., that expert-led economic

While Worcester presents exciting possibilities, there

growth, neoliberalism, and austerity

is also a concern articulated by some practitioners and

are all that is reasonable because

academics that cooperative development may come to

they are all that is possible.

be deployed as a conventional tool in poverty reduction efforts, either being confined to those areas experiencing a market failure, or, even worse, becoming part of

a process of “responsibilization” in impoverished communities.10 In this scenario, poverty increasingly comes to be treated as the personal responsibility of individuals, rather than a structural outcome produced by the economic system. (The widespread practice known as “lunch shaming,” in which children receiving subsidized or free lunch at their public schools are forced to clean the cafeterias, or are stigmatized in other ways, illustrates this phenomenon.) However, it is crucial to understand how radically the solidarity economy can democratize economic

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development, since non-experts determine the organization of production, exchange, consumption, investment, and the management of common resources.

11 Jacques Rancière, “The Ethical Turn of Aesthetics and

Following Rancière, we therefore suggest that SE actors in effect produce a

Politics,” Critical Horizons

moment of democratic “dissensus”: an interruption of the received ideology, per-

Vol. 7, no. 1, (2006): 1–20;

vasive in the U.S., that expert-led economic growth, neoliberalism, and austerity

Mark Purcell, “Rancière and Revolution,” Space and Polity

are all that is reasonable because they are all that is possible.11 Continual dissen-

Vol. 18, no. 2, (2013): 161–181.

sus might allow the SE to escape domestication as a “development” strategy; in

12 Penn Loh and Boone

this connection a promising trend is the way in which concerns about racial and

Shear, “Solidarity Economy

12

postcolonial justice have become more central to SE discussions. Our research in New York suggests still other ways that we might ensure the democratic vitality of the solidarity economy by continuing to examine precisely how such entities, organizations, and practices contribute to a broader sense of well-being within the communities they serve.

and Community Development: Emerging Cases in Three Massachusetts Cities,” Community Development Vol. 46 no. 3 (2015): 244–260. 13 See Amanda Huron, “Working with Strangers in Saturated Space: Reclaiming

NEW YORK CITY

and Maintaining the Urban

In New York City, Safri and Pavlovskaya limited their initial round of research to

no. 4 (2015): 963–79; James

cooperatives, including worker cooperatives, limited equity housing cooperatives,

DeFilippis, Unmaking Goliath:

food co-ops, and credit unions—all of them formal economic entities engaged in their respective markets. We also formed partnerships with community organizations and networks that form part of the SE there. The National Credit Union

Commons,” Antipode Vol. 47,

Community Control in The Face of Global Capital (London: Routledge, 2004); Jane Leavitt and Susan Saegert, From Abandonment to Hope:

Association, for example, shared data on all the credit unions within New York,

Community-Households in

and indeed throughout the U.S. We benefitted immensely from the advice and

Harlem (New York: Columbia

participation of local activist group SolidarityNYC to access and survey food coop-

University Press, 1990).

eratives. SolidarityNYC further aided in connecting us to a multi-member worker cooperative coalition that included the Federation for Protestant Welfare Agencies, the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives, the Working World, the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, the Center for Family Life, Green Workers’ Cooperative, and others. Lastly, we partnered with the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB) to learn more about affordable housing cooperatives in the city. We have become deeply involved with these community partners, especially since our research was in part guided by their own goals. Here we report some findings from the research on cooperative forms of housing. Obviously, housing plays a paramount role in the political economy of New York City, given its large population and high cost of real estate. The stock of affordable housing has been declining for decades, with waves of gentrification leading to the displacement of longstanding residential populations in many neighborhoods. Limited equity cooperative housing is one of the few affordable-housing options falling under community control.13 In New York City, there are two primary types of limited equity housing cooperatives: housing development fund corporations (HDFC), and limited profit housing companies (known as Mitchell-Lama

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Legend UHAB_geocode Median Income 0.0000 - 48724.4000 48724.4000 - 97448.8000 97448.8000 - 146173.2000 146173.2000 - 194897.6000 194897.6000 - 243622.0000

0

1

2

3

4 miles

FIGURE 4: Northern New York City clustering of HDFC limited equity housing cooperatives in census tracts orga-

nized by household median income. Source: Christian Siener, Marianna Pavlovskaya, and Maliha Safri.

cooperatives). Both are designed to keep housing affordable by exchanging tax 14 Alexander Roesch, “The Urban Homesteading

breaks for an agreement to rent or sell only to those whose income falls under a

Assistance Board (UHAB)

limit set by the city (typically no higher than the median income for the area). Some

and Affordable Housing

of the HDFCs, and all of the Mitchell-Lama housing co-ops, also have price limits

Cooperatives in NYC” (presentation at Parsons School of

on housing units (specified either by number of bedrooms or by unit size in square

Design, New York, NY, Sept 14,

feet). In total, there are approximately 1,300 HDFCs in New York City, comprising

2015).

31,000 units of housing with an average size of 24 apartments per building.14 The 88 current Mitchell-Lama cooperatives, which are generally much larger than the HDFC buildings, create another 64,669 units of housing for moderate income families. The maps in Figures 4 and 5 show the geographic distribution of HDFCs throughout New York City in the context of median income at the census tract level. The clustering of HDFCs in low-income areas is clearly visible. Most of these cooperatives came into existence during the 1970’s and 80’s, primarily through three city programs (Tenant Interim Lease, Community Management Program, and Third Party Transfer) in which the city turned over ownership of the buildings to collectives of tenants who could demonstrate capable self-management. UHAB was the

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Legend UHAB_geocode Median Income 0.0000 - 48724.4000 48724.4000 - 97448.8000 97448.8000 - 146173.2000 146173.2000 - 194897.6000 194897.6000 - 243622.0000

0

1

2

3

4 miles

FIGURE 5: Southern New York City clustering of HDFC limited equity housing cooperatives in census tracts orga-

nized by household median income. Source: Christian Siener, Marianna Pavlovskaya, and Maliha Safri.

primary organization helping residents navigate this transition, sometimes becoming an interim landlord itself. Tenants not only managed the residences, but also invested any “sweat equity” needed to bring their buildings up to code.15 Hence

15 See Leavitt and Saegert, From Abandonment to Hope; DeFilippis, Unmaking Goliath.

these maps can be read as showing areas that experienced serious disinvestment during the 1970’s and 1980’s and in which collective self-management schemes arose as a survival strategy. Our work with UHAB shaped both our thinking and subsequent research on housing in New York. We added research questions we had previously not thought to ask. For instance, we knew that all affordable housing co-ops had income limits for owners—and, at least officially, sale price limits as well. But through UHAB, we learned of serious disagreements around price limits, and how some buildings were actually failing to maintain such limits in practice, allowing apartment prices in these buildings to creep up toward market rates. This development threatens to make the apartments unaffordable for many people after all, thus undermining the goals of the city program in which the buildings are enrolled. Meanwhile, during the Fall of 2015, graduate students in the Design and Urban Ecologies

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Program at Parsons School of Design in New York conducted a series of inter16 For more on the wide range of value-creating activ-

views with local housing cooperative residents, yielding a different perspective on

ities that are inadequately

the issues facing limited equity housing cooperatives. The interviews make clear

understood in mainstream

that being shareholders in a co-op can profoundly affect residents’ approaches

economic theory, and on the need to develop alternatives

to life decisions both large and small, in very positive ways. One co-op owner, for

to market capitalism, see J. K.

example, claimed that without her apartment, retirement would have been incon-

Gibson-Graham, The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A

ceivable. Another shared that being a member of an affordable housing co-op had

Feminist Critique of Political

changed the career decisions both he and his wife were able to make, allowing his

Economy (Minneapolis:

wife to work on climate justice issues in which she earned a relatively low income.

University of Minnesota Press, 1996); J. K. Gibson-Graham,

Others simply reported that they were able to travel, or “go to a movie.” Overall,

Post-Capitalist Politics

the interviews with housing co-op residents reveal that they are able to exert more

(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005).

control over their own economic lives and decision-making because of their access to a secure and affordable place to live. We interpret the reports by residents as evidence of a broader well-being in which income is not the sole yardstick. Such a finding is significant for anyone interested in designing economic development outside of conventional parameters that privilege increasing overall economic production over distributional concerns. Yet at the same time, our findings also demonstrate that this practice is coming under serious threat: all the housing co-ops we studied had chosen to continue observing income limits for eligibility, but none had maintained price limits on sales of the apartments themselves. CONCLUSION Our ambitious collaborative research on the solidarity economy has already generated interesting insights nationally and about each location focused on to date. At the national level, it is clear that the SE has a strong presence in the United States, even if we typically take note only of its formal components such as credit unions, worker cooperatives, and food and housing co-ops. Therefore, demonstrating the ontological presence of the solidarity economy is vital to the task of developing working alternatives to capitalism, both those already existing, and those yet to be imagined.16 In Philadelphia, we are made conscious of critical geography’s debates on the politics of visibility. Visibility can both empower and disempower, and researchers must always be aware of this knife’s edge. As important as what the maps reveal is what they conceal: we must pay attention to the blank spots on these maps, and remember that they can’t tell us everything we need to know. In Worcester and New York City, our results reveal the importance of incubating and supporting organizations, showing that SE entities do best when they exist in a kind of ecosystem of organizations all pursuing similar goals. Worcester’s results in particular indicate a growth of the SE there, built around key actors such as Stone Soup and Worcester Roots.

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Solidarity economy entities do best when they exist in a kind of ecosystem of organizations all pursuing similar goals.

It is important to remain aware of the pressures to domesticate or tame the radical potential of projects like these. If cooperatives are allowed to become a conventional

17 DeFilippis, Unmaking Goliath, 111.

strategy of poverty alleviation or containment, or a pathway to entrepreneurial initiatives, they will make it harder to address more challenging, structural impediments to enacting social solidarity and progressive economic transformation. On the other hand, our results suggest that we should read dissensus into the current functioning of SE entities, appreciating the way they expand the political terrain. If non-experts are allowed to guide economic decisions about production, finance, investment, and management, what kinds of different decisions might they make? At least one possibility is analogous to what we have observed in our interviews in New York City’s limited equity housing co-ops: people with secure housing have more freedom to engage in other solidarity-oriented activities and practices (e.g. devoting one’s career to social or justice-related issues at comparatively low levels of remuneration). In this way, solidarity economy practices can actually shape the people participating in them, as well as the larger communities in which they are located. In the case of the housing co-ops discussed above, even if these entities are facing pressures from the mainstream real estate market, “they have given residents a degree of control over their own lives that would not be possible otherwise.”17 Ultimately, this is perhaps the most powerful argument in their favor.

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BUILDING A NEIGHBORHOOD COOPERATIVE: INTERVIEW WITH JEANNE VAN HEESWIJK Gabriela Rendรณn Artist and community organizer Jeanne van Heeswijk sat for the following interview expanding on themes she discussed in her contribution to the Fall 2014 Cooperative Cities panel discussion. Having carried out long-term projects in complex urban environments throughout Europe and the United States, van Heeswijk focuses here on her efforts to set up multifaceted cooperative entities in two neighborhoods that have faced serious challenges in recent years, the Afrikaander district of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and the borough of Anfield in Liverpool, England. Gabriela Rendรณn (GR): Thank you for agreeing to discuss your practice with us. Your work is well known for changing the local politics in places that have experienced underinvestment, and in urban communities that have been deliberately disfranchised. Your practice has catalyzed a wide range of cooperative processes at different urban scales, helping people take matters into their own hands. What forms of cooperative practice have you found to be particularly transformative? Jeanne van Heeswijk (JvH): I think it is important to consider complex urban contexts from various perspectives or levels, including those of the individual, the neighborhood, and the city as a whole. The point is not to regard these levels as stages in a development, but as part of a process in which people can operate and grow through the levels. From an individual point of view, for instance, it is very important for people to find ways of sharing knowledge and skills, and to understand that in working together there are ways in which they can grow together, possibly helping them to attain better positions within the neighborhood, or to become more involved in other local structures or initiatives.

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The cooperative structures themselves can actually be as simple as a cooperative workspace, meaning a space that people with different skills can make use of. You have to be a bit opportunistic. As an example, in the Afrikaander district1 there was a commercial kitchen that had been abandoned, and also a lot of people living nearby with traditional or specialized culinary skills. We took over and established the kitchen as a community resource, available to all, which led to the creation of some small, informal businesses, doing catering, making chutneys, making sambal sauces, and other similar things (see Figure 1).

1

The Afrikaanderwijk, a

socially and economically marginalized neighborhood of about 10,000 people in the south of Rotterdam, was the first in the Netherlands to have a majority-immigrant population, with many residents who hail from countries including Turkey, Morocco, Suriname, and the Antilles.

Cooperative workplaces like these are one of the first places where people can bring their individual skills and needs into a shared environment, and where they can learn from other participants. Starting from there, things might grow, for example

The resulting demographic diversity has been a factor in racial tensions that have sometimes complicated social relations in the neighbor-

into a worker’s cooperative, which would be a step toward really becoming a coop-

hood. In the years following

erative entity. But I think these more robust programs can sometimes be encouraged

the economic crisis of 2008,

and nurtured by setting up something simpler such as a cooperative workspace, which is maybe not yet a “co-op” in the full sense, but is a place where people can share skills and knowledge—and can also start getting used to the general idea of working cooperatively. A simple cooperative enterprise such as a community kitchen can thus serve as a sort of entry point to the whole concept of sharing resources, skills, and knowledge. In my experience, this sort of simple introduction to cooperative activities can be a good way to make such activities attractive

FIGURE 1: Afrikaander Neighborhood community kitchen. Photo: Janneke Absil.

the Afrikaander district has been particularly hard hit by the loss of jobs in the area’s dockyards.


to individuals living in a neighborhood but not otherwise involved. Quite often in places where I work, the very idea of a “cooperative” is itself not a given, well-understood thing. It’s not like everybody says, “Yes! This is exactly what we wanted.” From modest beginnings like these, it’s really a matter of thinking, “okay, can this organization we have gotten up and running now make more of its activities or operations cooperative in a truer or more robust sense of the word? Having established this one way for individuals to work together, are there other ways, perhaps on a larger scale, that we might consider developing?” (see Figures 2–3). GR: Staying with that subject, your practice has consistently focused on local needs and urgencies, as well as available community resources, to find new forms of commonality, as well as to “radicalize the local,” as you have put it in describing some of your projects. What does it mean to radicalize the local, and what role can cooperative practices play in this process? JvH: When I talk about radicalizing the local, I have in mind two connotations of the word “radical,” both reflecting that word’s original meaning, pertaining to “roots.” One connotation has to do with emergence, with allowing what is only potentially or germinally there, but is already rooted in the community’s culture or values, to become present. The other involves re-situating or re-weaving—re-rooting—that which has emerged back into a network. That’s why I think cooperative practices are so important: they facilitate the emergence of something new, a new practice or project, as well as the social infrastructure Cooperative workplaces are one of the first places where people can bring their

to support and sustain that new thing, allowing it to “take root” in the life of the community. That is essentially what a cooperative structure is.

individual skills and needs into a shared environment, and where they can learn

GR: How do you identify likely places to “facilitate

from other participants. Starting from

the emergence of something new”?

there, things might grow, for example into a worker’s cooperative, which would

JvH: You first have to make yourself sensitive to

be a step toward really becoming a

what is around, to that which is not yet visible but

cooperative entity.

which is brewing, cooking, or “in the air.” There must be some latent potential there which hasn’t yet emerged, perhaps because of restrictive regulations or the fact that the area might not be able to deal with high visibility, or because the infrastructure necessary for the district to thrive might not yet exist. So for instance, in the Afrikaander district, we basically went door to door to see what might be brewing, what kinds of potentialities or capabilities might be there but happening under the surface, and what it would take for those capabilities to

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FIGURE 2: Afrikaander Neighborhood Cooperative Advertisement. Photo: Ramon Mosterd.

FIGURE 3: Afrikaander Neighborhood Cooperative members meeting. Photo: Annet van Otterloo.

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87


become emergent. Once we had enlisted a few local people as partners, setting up cooperative work spaces was the first of our projects in that Rotterdam neighborhood. We didn’t call them “cooperatives” at first; instead we referred to them as “collective working spaces,” spaces where people could come to develop and expand their skill sets, and to grow their capabilities more generally. In sum, to make things emergent is to allow things to grow and to flourish, to thrive. GR: You mentioned worker cooperatives, entities that are owned and managed by their workers, and in which all the members participate in decision-making in a democratic way. In the Afrikaander district, you went considerably further than this, setting up what is in effect a neighborhood cooperative, a unique institution encompassing an unusually wide range of activities and stakeholders. How did you envision moving from a worker cooperative to a neighborhood cooperative? What was the impetus behind creating this larger entity? And what is its current scope and structure? JvH: After we had set up cooperative workspaces like the community kitchen and they had started to grow, we began to realize that for those things to develop further and for people to really be able to exercise greater control over their lives and local environment, a number of things needed to be facilitated around certification. To get the permits and the licenses that were needed to have things flourish thus became one of our main goals. We realized too that ultimately, we had to start thinking in terms not of single and isolated cooperative ventures, but instead about whole networks of cooperative structures, which collectively can hold and sustain all the different activities that are happening in the Cooperative practices facilitate the

neighborhood, since each node of the network is itself a cooperative activity that supports the infrastructure of the

emergence of something new, a new

overarching cooperative network. This is essentially the

practice or project, as well as the

origin of the notion of a “neighborhood co-op.”

social infrastructure to support and sustain that new thing, allowing

Being constructed as a nodal network, the neighborhood

it to “take root” in the life of the

co-op permits many different ways to participate in its

community. That is essentially what

various components, without necessarily having to be

a cooperative structure is.

part of one singular entity. This allows for a much wider range of people to participate in the network in some way, without everyone having to play a prominent role, or to

reach consensus on every issue. The network is really a kind of safety net, but it’s a cooperative safety net, or rather a cooperative structure that has been woven or knitted together, which can hold and support some of the many diverse activities vital to a thriving neighborhood (see Figure 4).

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Today, the Afrikaanderwijkcooperative comprises a series of sub-cooperatives. For example, we have a worker’s cooperative focused on payment of wages. Some of the members are independent contractors, while others are employees earning a wage or salary; still others are partly on social security, partly not. So this co-op is not a classical worker’s cooperative; instead it’s a cooperative

The neighborhood cooperative helps the

generally organized around work and payment

community come together through sharing

for work, and includes a communally-managed

skills, and that is what we’re trying to do.

payroll system. Another of the components of the neighborhood cooperative is one that deals with the aforementioned certification and licensing issues on behalf of the co-ops’ members, which is very important. Consider the following example: there are a lot of schools and colleges in the Afrikaander district, which serve several meals a day to their students. The contracts for supplying food to the school cafeterias go only to providers that meet certain licensing and certification standards. For most individual small businesses, however, complying with the licensing laws would be prohibitively expensive. Meanwhile, we have our commercial kitchen and a lot of local cooks right in the neighborhood: people from various cultural backgrounds who could run a food service reflecting a wide range of culinary and cultural traditions, as well as the diverse backgrounds of the actual students. The kitchen buys its ingredients locally, and even turns leftovers from the local market into new products. In this context, what our certification co-op does is to take care of the permitting process for the whole cooperative, so the various sub-co-ops can use them as needed. The Afrikaander cooperative, then, really functions as a network of smaller co-ops that support one another, in order to help all the members to do the things they do and to develop their skills. The network helps the community come together through sharing skills, and that is what we’re trying to do. GR: Cooperatives have undoubtedly improved the lives of their members by providing not only economic benefits, but also social ones, through mutual aid and education. Scaling the production of knowledge and skills training to a neighborhood level seems like the ultimate model for this type of community development. How has the neighborhood cooperative assisted in improving economic, social and political conditions in the Afrikaander district? JvH: As you say, the neighborhood cooperative is fundamentally an effort to assist people in all these aspects of their daily lives. I’ve touched on economic and social factors above. On the political front, recently we have been participating in the “right to challenge.” This is an experiment in local control and self-determination

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EXAMPLES WASSALON MARKTPLEIN CLEANS TEXTILE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD KITCHEN.

La

RAAF AND THE NEIGHBOURHOOD KITCHEN COOPERATE FOR CATERINGS.

an

op

Zu

id EXAMPLES ENERGY SUPPLY VIA THE AFRIKAANDERWIJK COOPERATIVE.

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COMBINED USE OF SPACE IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD WORKSHOP AND THE GEMAAL OP ZUID. A MUTUAL EGG SUPPLIER FOR RESTAURANTS AND FOOD PRODUCTION.

EXAMPLES ALBLAS SENDS PEOPLE WHO HAVE TO WAIT FOR A REPAIR TO ESPRESSO PRETORIA OR LEKKER OP ZUID. SHOES FROM MEVIO ARE SHOWN IN THE SHOP WINDOW OF BROEKENPALEIS. ALADIN AND THE NEIGHBOURHOOD WORKSHOP WORK ON CLOTHES OF LAAROUSSA.

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EXCHANGING KNOWLEDGE

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EVELOPMENTS AND GOVERNMENTAL POLICY.

SHARING LIVE FOOTAGE OF SAFETY SERVEILLANCE CAMERA’S TO MAKE SURE THE OTHER ONE IS SAVE. BEING PART OF A SOCIAL NETWORK OF SMALL ENTREPRENEURS.

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network. Illustration:

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Marcel van der Meijs.

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currently being tested in the Netherlands. The idea is that local entities can challenge government procurement proposals if they can provide the good or service for less, or have a better idea. We have been actively challenging the Rotterdam municipal government to allow us to be a partner in some of these contracts that directly involve the Afrikaander district. In these challenges, we emphasize the extra value our activities create in the community. The co-ops cannot realistically compete on price for most government contracts, so we stress the fact that, besides delivering the good or the service for a fair price, we will also generate social and economic benefits in the neighborhood because we create jobs, we do skills training, we organize knowledge sharing, and we’re building community generally. Part of our procurement package, then, involves presenting a much more holistic idea about what it means to care for a neighborhood than is typical. This, to me, is very important. One of the problems of the neoliberal capitalist framework is that it only recognizes one kind of value; I believe we have to start thinking more broadly about the different kinds of value certain activities bring to a neighborhood. This is one of the ways we have been politically active, along with the more general fact that we are modeling a form of self governance and of self determination within the Afrikaander neighborhood.

FIGURE 5: Right to Challenge: cleaning the Afrikaanderwijk Market. Photo: Pieternel de Winter.

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FIGURE 6: Right to Challenge: the Afrikaanderwijk Market cleaning crew. Photo: Mariska Vogel.

GR: What kinds of specific issues have you challenged the government on? JvH: One challenge involves the cleaning of the Afrikaander market. Municipal garbage collection in the market was being done very wastefully, with big trucks sent in each night and everything thrown together and ending up in landfills. Because of our earlier work in the neighborhood, the people running the market asked us if we wanted to consider bidding to take over the daily cleaning of the market, which we are now doing successfully. As with the meal service proposal, the idea is to get the people of the neighborhood to reflect on, and decide, whether this particular function shall continue to be performed by outside companies, or whether we can actually take care of that ourselves, for the benefit of the entire neighborhood (see Figures 5–6). We have some experience here, since another one of the services that the Afrikaander co-op provides is working with residents to organize the cleaning of public entry halls in the local buildings, thus enhancing public pride and people’s sense of investment and general “neighborliness” in the Afrikaander neighborhood. So the cleaning of the market is one of the specific contexts in which we have challenged the government. This has created jobs in the district, as well as other benefits. For instance, all the fruit and vegetables that are still usable at the end of the day are reserved. We have made an agreement with a local jam maker to take

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the leftover fruit from the market each day, whatever that may be, and to make a 2

Max Haiven, “‘The cor-

ollary of the derivative is the border’: visions for the dem-

conserve with it to be sold at a discount in stores throughout the Afrikaander district. The vegetables, meanwhile, are used to make soups for the schools and colleges.

ocratic control of movement” (opendemocracy.net/caneurope-make-it/max-haiven/

I recently read an interview with the political theorist and activist Max Haiven in

corollary-of-derivative-is-bor-

which he highlighted the role of imagination in successful political and social

der-visions-for-democratic-control-of-mo).

struggles. He writes that “the imagination from the very beginning is in motion. It’s embodied, it’s a collective exercise of care.” 2 I think that this phrase, “a collective exercise of care,” exactly captures what a cooperative enterprise is. GR: You were the initiator and a main driver of the network of cooperatives in the Afrikaander neighborhood, but over time you have also delegated responsibilities and the organization to the local people. How long did it take to create this kind of functioning and self-sustaining system? JvH: It’s been about eight years. What has been most challenging in that time is hinted at in your description of a worker cooperative as an entity that is owned and managed by its workers, and in which every member participates in

FIGURE 7: Afrikaander Neighborhood collaborative fashion studio. Photo: Johannes van Assem.

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decision-making in a democratic way. That’s a beautiful image, but how do you do realize such an arrangement in a neighborhood where the territory is fractured,

3

Anfield was included

in the Housing Market

and which is characterized by a wide diversity of languages, cultures, ethnic back-

Renewal Initiative (HRMI),

grounds, belief systems, value systems, and levels of knowledge and education? It’s

a controversial plan of the

a steep learning curve for everyone involved. It takes a long time for people to learn to feel comfortable around one another, to trust one another. For example, some people didn’t want to shop at our co-ops at first, for fear the foods and other prod-

U.K. government intended to reverse long-term economic decline in designated areas in the North and Midlands of England. The program

ucts might not be safe. Others have an immediate negative reaction to any activity

centered around demolition

that looks to them like “socialism.” Still others, struggling to make ends meet, can

of existing housing stock

be difficult to persuade to donate time, energy, and creativity to an activity whose real payoffs may be months or years away. Beyond simply trusting others, people also have to learn to work together in a cooperative structure. What may seem like

and rebuilding of a smaller number of homes, in an effort to support housing prices. The district that includes Anfield, considered to be among the

basics of organizational life, like planning a meeting via email, making decisions

most severely deprived parts

by popular vote, analyzing a budget and planning for the future, etc., may not be

of England, was scheduled for

familiar to everyone involved; or it may be that things are simply done differently in some other community or tradition. So being successful in the sort of complex enterprise we are discussing involves members’ being willing to learn from one

the largest clearance program in the region, with initial plans to demolish 1,800 residential and commercial properties. Launched in 2002, HRMI

another across barriers of culture, class, education, and understanding, as well

endured criticism from various

as of direct interest or immediate gain. Nurturing this sort of reciprocal trust and

constituencies, including res-

learning is always the biggest challenge.

idential associations in some of the affected areas and heritage groups, before being

GR: Your practice has also focused on alternative modes of development in areas

discontinued in 2011.

that have been targeted for “social renewal through urban renewal,” such as the borough of Anfield in Liverpool.3 Here, housing demolitions led to massive displacement, but the new housing promised by the government was delayed for years, or never built. What methods or activities did you use to organize a community that in many ways had actually been damaged by the redevelopment efforts, however well-intentioned they may have been in concept? JvH: In Anfield, as in almost all of my work including in the Afrikaander district, I started by actually spending time in the area, going door to door, speaking to people, visiting and observing all kinds of things that were happening there, from local children playing, to cultural gatherings, to more political or activist gatherings, and just listening and having conversations with people about their own situations. A common theme that emerged, as one of our by-now very active participants told me in our first conversation, was that the people there felt “sick: Sick of the waiting, sick of the waiting for something to come.” I thought it was very striking that this woman described her whole experience, ten years of demolition and dislocation, as an illness, an embodied, physical thing. It occurred to me that being sick from waiting is in a way the diametrical opposite of the “embodied” care we discussed earlier as the essence of cooperative activity. So I began asking how the people here

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could start making again: not just making things, but through that, their own future, themselves. How could the people of this district regain a sense of their own agency? There was at that time an old bakery that had closed down, and basically we set up camp there. This bakery became a collective working space, a place where people could come together not only for political discussion and strategizing, but primarily so as to start actively producing the daily conditions of their lives once again. We began organizing workshops Being successful in this sort of complex enterprise involves members’ being willing to learn from one

at the bakery, to share information about what it would mean to take over some of the derelict properties

another across barriers of culture, class, education,

and to retrofit them, or to build new

and understanding, as well as of direct interest or

houses altogether. We held workshops

immediate gain. Nurturing this sort of reciprocal

in design as well as bricklaying and

trust and learning is always the biggest challenge.

other construction activities, in this way seeking to start discussions and deepen understanding about ways that

the community might contribute to its own “regeneration” (the term used in the government’s redevelopment planning documents). We also began researching the legal complexities involved, especially around actual purchase of land parcels in the borough. We started to look into more traditional models of land ownership, in particular land trusts, a mechanism for collectively owning and managing real estate properties. We set up an urban land trust, one of the first in England, since the model had originally been developed for rural contexts. In other words, and as with the Afrikaander district work, these initiatives in Anfield put us on a steep learning curve, because there were no prior models to work from. It was a pioneering effort, driven by the question what it could mean to create affordable housing as a communal activity. Meanwhile, as mentioned, we were installed in this former and by-then somewhat rundown bakery. Even though it had closed some months earlier, people still came in every day asking if they could buy bread or cookies. At first, of course, we had to say, “sorry, the bakery is closed, we have nothing to sell”; but then one day somebody brought in a home baked cake, saying that if anyone asked again, at least we would have something to offer them. This episode planted a seed, helping us think not only about how we could rebuild houses in the area, but also how we could help stimulate new economic activity. We began to realize it was not just about housing; it was about a whole set of values that’s needed for a community to thrive and which, in this case, could also be connected to the bakery (see Figures 8–9).

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FIGURE 8: Homebaked Community Bakery. Photo: Jeanne van Heeswijk.

FIGURE 9: Homebaked test kitchen. Photo: Mark Loudon.

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GR: How long were you working in Anfield? JvH: Close to four years. Once again, a lot of the effort went into building trust among the community’s various stakeholders. Whereas in the Afrikaander neighborhood, the great cultural diversity of the community’s members could sometimes lead to trust issues, in the case of Anfield it was distrust of the government and its urban renewal plan that was the main problem. Not that the distrust wasn’t understandable: after all, we are talking about a community that was substantially dismantled, its residents dislocated, and then more or less abandoned by the state; at least, the government’s rebuilding activities at that point in time were considered wholly inadequate by many of the local residents. These people have been let down so many times that putting their faith in the “next new initiative” is not something that comes easily. But to go through the process of understanding and healing together, as a community, is also a very generative process. I’ve noticed that for the most part, state-sponsored “urban renewal” schemes tend not to be really generative—that is, not generative for the communities they are ostensibly intended to serve. How can these projects become generative for communities; how can the projects be designed so that they might open up new possibilities for the intended beneficiaries? The answer always involves building community

FIGURE 10: Anfield Home Tour. Photo: Jeanne van Heeswijk.

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How can these projects become generative for communities; how can the projects be designed so that they might open up new possibilities for the intended beneficiaries? The answer always involves building community itself.

itself. In Anfield, this was particularly important. The greatest challenge there was rebuilding the sense of community, thus making the process of redeveloping the housing stock one that could become generative for the area as a whole. Bread turned out to be a main ingredient in that process. GR: Housing struggles have been a driver of the cooperative movement since the last century. The emphasis of neoliberal public policy on market-driven urban renewal in working-class and modest districts has incited the emergence of new forms of resistance and community organization. Considering the political implications that these mobilizations entail, how can artists involved in social issues advance the development of neighborhoods though cooperative models (shared ownership and management), while negotiating with local authorities and private corporations? What are the opportunities and challenges involved? JvH: Alluding again to the Max Haiven article, one of the things that I find important is the idea of civic or urban imagination. For myself as an artist, I think it’s very important to work with communities in building their own ideas about how they want to live together: to assist them in developing other images of what success might look like, instead of always reverting to the dominant neoliberal or capitalist idea of what success looks like. When communities start doing that, and especially when they start managing land as a group, they have already come very far. In Anfield, community members learned how to own and manage land. They learned how to set up a cooperative business. They demonstrated that they could handle the various obligations involved, and how to coordinate their efforts. And in the process, they learned how to be a community again. An artist, I believe, can work with communities to develop a civic imagination or to bring that civic imagination to the forefront. But of course, it is not easy to elicit this kind of imagination, especially in an underserved area like Anfield. One of the things that we did to stimulate a deeper community consciousness was to set up tours of the neighborhood. Visitors would come from the city center and get a tour of the Anfield district, which was really a tour through the recent history of slum clearance and gentrification in Liverpool. The visitors would meet people in their houses, on the street, and the residents would talk about their experiences (see Figure 10).

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The tours essentially invited Anfield residents to become actors in their own surroundings: political actors, some of whom became more outspoken as they told their stories again and again to different audiences. The deepening community awareness and commitment also expressed itself in the emergence of various slogans about the neighborhood: “Brick by brick, loaf by loaf ”; “We built it ourselves”; “We will rise—we won’t go down”; and similar kinds of things. At times it could be difficult to channel people’s emotions and energies in constructive directions. Especially once we began attempting to purchase parcels of land in the neighborhood, it was important to present the community as one that could work with the larger municipal and national government, and not simply be opposed to policies promulgated from on high. It was a delicate balancing act: on one hand the community needed a stronger sense of its own destiny, and to be able to say “No” to certain government policy proposals associated with the official redevelopment plan; but on the other, the community needed to find a way to represent itself as an entity that could participate in a political negotiation—which of course is quite a As an artist, I think it’s very important to

different thing than a political confrontation.

work with communities in building their own ideas about how they want to live

Homebaked is now in its second round of building

together: to assist them in developing

renovations and new construction. Naturally, many

other images of what success might look

aspects of this large and complex project remain

like, instead of always reverting to the

points of discussion and negotiation with the city

dominant neoliberal or capitalist idea of

council and with the local landowners. And the com-

what success looks like.

munity is grappling with its own issues, including familiar problems like the need to keep housing in the district affordable without increasing its size and

population too much. More specifically, questions about the legal ownership of the cooperative bakery took years to resolve, in part because the building remained in a government-defined demolition zone even after the HRMI program had been suspended and the bakery was back up and running, with many people working at it (see Figure 11). Regarding outside stakeholders, we continue to look for investors willing to put money into an untried urban renewal project. All construction and renovation plans have to fit within the idea of what the city council considers appropriate for the area. Meanwhile, what started as a cooperatively-run bakery has now morphed into a multifaceted community development entity; that’s essentially what Homebaked is now (see Figures 12–13).

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FIGURE 11: The Homebaked building re-opened as a community bakery while still subject to an HRMI

demolition order. Illustration: Marcel van der Meijs.

As with the Afrikaanderwijkcooperative, Homebaked represents thinking at a large scale, about the whole neighborhood: the shops, the houses, the empty green space that’s in back. We need to be more holistic in general than traditional private developers would be. At the same time, the community must be a strong enough entity, both in traditional political or economic terms and in terms of the quality of the ideas it advocates, that its legitimate claims are honored through the negotiation process instead of being attenuated or watered down by that process. This dilution often happens, and when it does, it can breed cynicism and mistrust among the people involved. GR: Lastly, reflecting on your experience and work, at different scales and across cities, could you share some insights on the role of women in cooperative urban practices? Historically, women have been at the forefront of urban struggles, and therefore at the core of survival and resistance strategies to address economic crises in local communities. In your long trajectory of socially engaged work in many different communities, what role have women played in cooperative urban practices?

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FIGURE 12: Homebaked Community Bakery: a viable cooperative business. Photo: Mark Loudon.

FIGURE 13: Homebaked: building a sustainable scheme. Photo: Britt Jurgensen

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JvH: In most of the cooperatives I have been involved with, and certainly in both the Afrikaander and Anfield neighborhoods, it was indeed predominantly women that were there, developing the plans, doing the work, and generally making things happen. I think this phenomenon has to do with that notion of embodied care and the holistic view of things that we were discussing before, as well as the demands of collaborative work, of truly working together with others and generating an outcome greater than the sum of its parts. All of these challenges answer in some way to feminine qualities, gifts, or interests—at least as those things are commonly or stereotypically defined. Aside from this, it is often women in particular who are under pressure in those neighborhoods, and who are the first to be marginalized. When the number of jobs declines, for example, women are often the first to have their pay delayed or decreased, the first to be fired or laid off, and so on. Part of the reason women tend to be more active in developing these cooperative networks, then, may be a simple reflection of their greater comparative need, along with a greater willingness to help out. Especially in some of the immigrant communities I have worked in, extensive mutual support systems are often already in place, again organized and maintained primarily if not exclusively by women. In the Afrikaander district, for example, there are groups of neighbors who handle many domestic functions cooperatively: on market day two women will do the shopping for six families, buying in bulk at lower prices. Two other women then prepare a large meal, feeding all six families. The remaining two women clean up. They rotate these roles weekly. Meanwhile, all the families share the costs. Everyone gets fed, and the finite resources of money, time, and labor are used to maximum efficiency. Another

In most of the cooperatives I have been

support network that had already existed in the

involved with, and certainly in both the

Afrikaander neighborhood long before we started

Afrikaander and Anfield neighborhoods,

working there is an informal banking system,

it was predominantly women that were

a sort of “savings club.” Each member puts a

there, developing the plans, doing the

small amount of money (usually between 2.5

work, and generally making things happen.

and 5 euros) per week into a pot, and then every month, one person can take the whole pot and buy something that person needs. Even in strictly financial terms, the yields from these savings clubs far exceed anything available from the retail banking industry. But the system can also be flexible in ways that banks can’t: for example, when members experience an unexpected reversal of fortune, they can be moved higher in the waiting list, reflecting the increased urgency of their financial circumstances in comparison with the other club members.

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Part of the reason women tend to be more active in developing these cooperative networks may be a simple reflection of their greater comparative need, along with a greater willingness to help out.

My work has been about noticing, nurturing, and celebrating these sorts of alternative social support systems, often already in place and functioning in many urban contexts around the world. It’s about identifying and tapping into the resources that people have already been building themselves, and asking, “well, how can we assist those structures in becoming stronger, and knit them into other contexts?” Part of the work involves promoting an understanding that this kind of practice, when it becomes woven into the daily lives of a community’s members, doesn’t necessarily have to be formalized in order to be able to help the community to thrive. That, for me, is critically important. Coalitions among people and informal practices of taking care and managing relationships, land, and money, knitted together in a way that it is resilient and strong without needing to be formalized as a specific business, government program, or agency: this, I think, is the most important thing. The dominant framework forces people to do things in a certain way, and in my view we need to keep insisting on doing them our way. And by that I mean that we must insist on doing things that actually benefit our communities.

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Contributors

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CRAIG BOROWIAK is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Haverford

College. His research focuses on post-capitalism, democratic accountability, and transnational social movements. His recent work investigates the geography of community gardens, the spread of social solidarity economy movements worldwide, and contrasts between sharing and solidarity economies. He is the author of Accountability and Democracy: The Pitfalls and Promise of Popular Control (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011) and co-editor of Exploring Cooperatives: Economic Democracy and Community Development in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin-Extension, 2015). His work appears in a variety of journals, including The Journal of Politics, Political Theory, Polity, New Political Science, PS: Political Science & Politics, Constellations, Alternatives, and Politics and Society, among others. SILVIA FEDERICI is an Italian-American scholar, teacher, and activist from the

radical autonomist feminist Marxist tradition. She is a Professor Emerita and Teaching Fellow at Hofstra University, where she taught social science. She worked as a teacher in Nigeria for many years, co-founded the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa, and is a member of the radical research group Midnight Notes Collective. STEPHEN HEALY is a Senior Research Fellow at Western Sydney University’s

Institute for Culture and Society. His research has concentrated on the relationship between economy, subjectivity, and the enactment of new econo-socialities exploring various topics: health care reform policy, cooperative and regional development, and the solidarity economy movement. His current project, Reconfiguring the Enterprise: Shifting Manufacturing Culture in Australia—funded by the Australian Research Council and undertaken with fellow investigators Katherine Gibson and Jenny Cameron—reimagines the future of manufacturing in Australia. Healy is co-author of Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide for Transforming our Communities (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013), presently translated into Korean, Spanish and Finnish with planned translations into Greek and French. He has also published in Gender, Place and Culture, Professional Geographer, New Zealand Geographer, Journal of Political Ecology, and Rethinking Marxism, and in numerous edited volumes. Healy is a founding member of the Community Economies Research Network.

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ELKE KRASNY is a curator and cultural theorist. She holds a PhD from the

University of Reading, UK. She works as a Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria. Her co-edited volumes include: The Right to Green: Hands-On Urbanism 1850–2012 (2012), Women’s Museum: Curatorial Politics in Feminism, Education, History, and Art (2013), In Reserve! The Household: Historic Models and Contemporary Positions from the Bauhaus (2015), and Feminist Perspectives on Curating (2016). Together with Angelika Fitz, she is curating the 2017–2019 exhibition and research project Care + Repair in architecture and urbanism. JESSICA GORDON NEMBHARD is Professor of Community Justice and Social

Economic Development in the Africana Studies Department at John Jay College, City University of New York. Author of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice and 2016 inductee into the U.S. Cooperative Hall of Fame, Dr. Gordon Nembhard is also an affiliate scholar with the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives (University of Saskatchewan, Canada). Gordon Nembhard has numerous publications in the areas of cooperative economics, community economic development, credit unions, wealth inequality, community wealth, and Black political economy. Gordon Nembhard is a former board member of the National Economic Association (past President and past Treasurer), and a co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative. MARIANNA PAVLOVSKAYA is a Professor of Geography at Hunter College

and CUNY Graduate Center. She holds a PhD in geography from Clark University, and conducts research on urban geography, feminist geography, and critical GIS (Geographic Information Science). Her current work examines the production of economic difference and work-related gendered migration in post-Soviet Russia; the role of the census and of geo-spatial data in production of social ontologies; and geographies of the solidarity economy in the United States. Pavlovskaya’s writings have appeared in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Geoforum, Europe-Asia Studies, Environment and Planning A, Cartographica, Urban Geography, and many edited volumes. Most recently, she co-edited a forthcoming book, Rethinking Neoliberalism: Resisting the Disciplinary Regime, to which she also contributed a chapter on the normalization of poverty in Russia through metrics.

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DOINA PETRESCU is Professor of Architecture and Design Activism at the

School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, and a former Visiting Professor in Urban Design at Harvard Graduate School of Design. Her research focuses on three main strands: gender, resilience, and participation in architecture, all with a strong international dimension. She is also co-founder with Constantin Petcou of Atelier d’architecture autogérée (aaa), an award-winning collective practice conducting research-actions in Paris, which engage citizens in processes of reclaiming and resiliently transforming the city. Her edited and co-edited publications include: Trans - Local - Act: Cultural Practices Within and Across (aaa-peprav, 2010), Agency: Working with Uncertain Architectures (London: Routledge, 2009), Altering Practices: Feminist Politics and Poetics of Space (London: Routledge, 2007), Urban Act: Hand-book for Alternative Practice (aaa-peprav, 2007), and Architecture and Participation (London: Spon Press, 2005). ANA RODRÍGUEZ is an independent curator and researcher. She has been

associated with several academic and research organizations, including the Universidad Central del Ecuador; CITE-FLACSO, the Center for Public Policy and Territory at the Latin American Social Sciences Institute; and CENEDET-IAEN, the National Strategy Center for the Right to Territory, part of the Institute for Advanced National Studies, all located in Quito, Ecuador. Rodríguez studied fine arts and philosophy at the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne in France, and pursued cultural studies at Ecuador’s Universidad Andina Simón Bolivar. Rodríguez served as Vice-minister and Minister of Culture of Ecuador from 2015 to 2016, directed Quito’s City Museums Foundation from 2012 to 2013, and directed the Contemporary Art Center, also in Quito, from 2011 to 2012. She is part of several independent initiatives including the urban research group Red de Saberes. Since 2005, she has participated in an ethnographic research project involving gang organizations in Ecuador, in particular the ALKQN. In 2015, she became the curator of the Alexander von Humboldt Archive, a project of the Ecuadorian artist Fabiano Kueva. MALIHA SAFRI is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Economics and

Business Department at Drew University. Her published work is in the field of political economy and has appeared in Signs, Organization, The Middle East Journal, and many edited book collections, including Making Other Worlds Possible: Performing

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Diverse Economies. Recent research focusing on the economic geography of social and solidarity economies was supported with a set of collaborative National Science Foundation grants. Safri has also volunteered in the domain of economic literacy for 18 years with community-based organizations, worker centers, and labor organizations and unions. JEANNE VAN HEESWIJK is a visual artist who creates contexts for interactions

in public spaces as well as long-term collaborative projects involving people in processes of urban transformation. Her work focuses on social practice art and the relationship between space, geography, and urban renewal. Van Heeswijk is the catalyst of a number of long-term projects, providing tools to help local people “take matters into their own hands” and in turn create real social and physical change in their neighborhoods. Her work on housing and neighborhood cooperatives has politicized and empowered urban communities and transformed their living environments. Van Heeswijk’s work has been exhibited widely in diverse cultural venues and art institutions across Europe, Asia, and America. “Philadelphia Assembled,” an exhibition that joins art and civic engagement in an unprecedented way, was on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the fall of 2017.

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2 West 13th Street, 9th floor New York, NY 10011 www.newschool.edu/parsons/SDS