Sub-theme 4. Commons between colonial legacies and the Anthropocene
Time, commoning, colonial legacies & strategies for recovery
This panel examines the effect of the colonisation of time on our experience of space and collectivity. Prior to the colonial era, each locality operated on its own principles of time and seasonality. Communities across the world incorporated into their own customs and cultures practises that aligned human endeavours with non-human rhythms. Following the standardisation of time (with European time being assumed globally), local patterns have been superimposed by global concerns with minimal concurrent questioning of the impact of global time on communities and landscapes. The anthropocene has brought into sharp focus the effects of human action that is out of step with non-human time. What possibilities would be available to us if we focused on scaling down rather than scaling up, looking for micro instead of blanket solutions to the climate crisis? This panel invites responses to the colonisation of time and its effects.
Priority will be given to proposals that facilitate the experience of time such as collective sharing or creative responses. Conference papers that illuminate this under researched area of commoning are also welcome. We are keen to hear from researchers and practitioners who are open to working together before the conference to deliver a shared experience to conference participants.
1. Future Folklores and the emerging landscapes of the Anthropocene
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, USA
Is there a way to imagine the Commons differently, as stewardship of emerging future landscapes and environments which we might not easily see as useful(resource) or desirable (nature)?
Altered landscapes, disturbed grounds, post extraction slag heaps and spillages, environmentally problematic sites of altered soil chemistries or salinization – these landscapes of the Anthropocene are often thought and portrayed of in terms of loss where a natural condition is disturbed and harmed, reemerging as wasteland, un-natural, un-picturesque and potentially dangerous.
Yet these might be the very sites of a future emergence of new natures and geologic processes: of much longer time-frames of transformations and lesser understood, often invisible microbial or ruderal ecologies. In that sense we must construct new imaginaries, mythologies, customs and practices which are able to span such time-scales, and which can sustain this new kind of Commons – a stewardship of non-human desires and agencies.
What future objects, tools, materialities, folklores and narratives would emerge? In some ways this calls for inventive explorations of apparent contradictions such as unnatural natures, fugitive botanies, technology/shamanism, constructing future pasts and artefacts at the intersection of science and folklore.
As part of this quest – a series of fabricated artefacts and landscape tools for the future Commons are presented alongside historical artefacts, which act as prompts for the future objects. These would be shown as liDAR scans, which can then be interactively viewed using AR on a tablet or phone. Each object comes with a narrative, story or a field guide.
2. Socio-environmental injustices and the development of large scale-plantations in DR Congo: An analysis of colonial legacy
1Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Japan, 2University of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
It is now well established around the world that the development of large agro-industrial plantations is likely to lead to massive human rights violations and other abuses on the living conditions of local communities and workers. These results are antagonistic to the dominant macroeconomic discourses, narratives promises and especially sustainable development goals outcomes in terms of socio-environmental justice. This paper aims to examine infrastructures and practices developed in agro-industrial plantations through the lens of socio-environmental (in) justice in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from the colonial period to contemporary times. Indeed, the combined review of literature, consultative of archives and discussions of key experts reveal the persistent system that generates of socio-environmental injustices, as part of the Belgium colonial legacy in the DR Congo’s which is characterized by violence and extractive practices. However, such a system of social injustices is likely to be corrected by political and governance reforms driven by the country’s public authorities and related stakeholders.
3. Challenging traditional Western concepts of commons governance through understanding Indigenous governance and spiritual connection to country
1Monash University, Australia, 2University of Canberra, Australia
This paper considers the commons we want in the context of questions about beliefs, values and the premises of liberalism, modernism and the classic modern Western paradigm (Berque, 2013). First, we consider the question of successful commons governance and argue that, in relation to nature, this implies stewardship. Stewardship accepts that we are temporary custodians of commons with a responsibility to pass assets we inherited to future generations in the same or better condition. We then consider three forms of governance proposed by Ostrom (1990) – hierarchies, markets and collaboration – and their shortcomings in relation to intergeneration stewardship. We argue the Western framing of this typology limits its analytic potential and that a fourth form of governance needs to be included – Indigenous governance. Commons governance appears within a set of political, economic and social conditions that need to be challenged. The concept of Indigenous governance challenges the underlying paradigm of values and perspectives that constrain discussion of governance of nature. By exploring examples from Australian Indigenous governance, we question assumptions of the Western paradigm and accountability for commons management. For example, whereas, in Christian societies, life on earth is seen as temporary and transitory, in Indigenous culture a person’s being (before, during and after life) has a permanent spiritual attachment to country thereby creating a temporal bond of stewardship. The question is, how can this concept of spiritual connection and its consequence for intergenerational stewardship be reintroduced to modern societies built around notions of individual liberty and rational actors. Here, we can propose some initial thoughts.