1st Thematic Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


TITLE: The Confluence of Urban Commoning: Making Common Space for Nomad Citizenship AUTHORS: UnMonastery Athens Team (Penny Travlou: University of Edinburgh, UnMonastery Ethnographer & OneLoveKitchen Events Organisation, Katalin Hausel: UnMonastery unAbbot & OneLoveKitchen helper, Jeff Andreoni: UnMonastery client & OneLoveKitchen PR/Marketing) KEYWORDS: urban commoning, nomad citizenship, DIWO networks, collective kitchen, Athens THEMATIC CATEGORY: The Urban Commons and Democratic Innovation (3) ABSTRACT For over five years now, Athens has been experiencing a rapid landscape change with businesses closing, riots, demonstrations, and an enormous influx of refugees. Most documentation on Athens is about the despair and hopelessness of its people. Yet in public squares, the streets and rundown neighbourhoods, from grassroots movements to DIY networks, glimpses of hope for an alternative life based on solidarity, collaboration and sharing have begun to surface. These can be considered as spatial practices through which the city is “created both as a good to be shared and as a medium that can give form to institutions of sharing” (Stavrides 2015: 9). The making of shared spaces is what we can call ‘urban commoning’, which is in constant flux, to accommodate and invite newcomers. These are common spaces that are dependent upon their power to communicate and connect rather than separate, in which commoners create areas of encounter and collective self-management. Rules, in the form of toolkits and design patterns, are characteristic of such open and ever expanding commoning practice, where commoners have to consider themselves open to transformative negotiations with newcomers (Stavrides 2015). The persistent openness of the urban commons may be the result of the presence of strangers - nomad citizens whose presence forces the city to open up and allow for new spaces of convergence. “Nomad citizenship” can thus be considered as a “positive, economic meta-cosmopolitanism” based on the ‘newcomers/strangers’ ethical participation in social movements, bottom-up institutions and urban grassroots networks rather than obedience to the State (Holland 2012). These strangers act as catalysts, bring a specific form of interaction to the fabric of relationships in the city, as they are both outside and confronting it. What are the characteristics that allow certain types of outsiders to become a guarantor of openness in the urban commons? We will present a case study describing two distinct groups of strangers: unMonasterians (http://unmonastery.org), who are mainly white, highly educated and bring a global network of their own to the city, and as such are perceived as ‘assets’; and refugees, who arrive impoverished and traumatised and are often perceived as ‘burden’, despite the various skills and cultural capital they carry. In an on-going collaborative experiment, these two groups fabricate situations that bond residents and newcomers. Looking at ‘food’ as a paradigm of common good, shared within/across the city, we have created a collective kitchen: OneLoveKitchen of African refugees, UnMonks and members of Nosotros social space in central Athens. The principles of the collective kitchen focus on solidarity economy models, heterarchical power structures, horizontal decision-making, collective self-management, but also sharing, exchanging and peer learning practices. Through a series of pop-up events, we have been creating a network of shared common spaces where newcomers (strangers) and existing commoners negotiate, communicate and connect rather than separate. In this paper, we will look at how our case study can allow a granular examination of the role of spaces of flows (Do-It-With-Others networks), strangers (nomadic actors) and interactions in the confluence of urban commoning. References Holland, E. W. (2012) Global Cosmopolitanism and Nomad Citizenship. http://works.bepress.com/eugene_w_holland/9 Stavrides, S. (2015) “Common Space as Threshold Space: Urban Commoning in Struggles to Re-appropriate Public Space”, in Footprint, Issue 16, pg. 9-19.
Period6 Nov 20157 Nov 2015
Event typeConference
LocationBologna, ItalyShow on map


  • urban commons
  • networks
  • refugees
  • nomad citizenship
  • ethnographic study
  • Athens
  • Greece