What can New Orleans learn from Washington, DC's history of resisting gentrification and displacement? Come learn about the history of tenant organizing and cooperative land ownership from Amanda Huron, assistant professor of interdisciplinary social sciences in the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of the District of Columbia.
Provoked by mass evictions and the onset of gentrification in the 1970s, tenants in Washington, D.C. began forming cooperative organizations to collectively purchase and manage their apartment buildings. These tenants were creating a commons, taking a resource—housing—that had been used to extract profit from them, and reshaping it as a resource that was collectively owned and governed by them. In Carving Out the Commons, Amanda Huron theorizes the practice of urban commoning through a close investigation of the city’s limited-equity housing cooperatives. Drawing on feminist and anticapitalist perspectives, Huron asks whether a commons can work in a city where land and other resources are scarce, and how strangers who may not share a past or future come together to create and maintain commonly-held spaces in the midst of capitalism. Arguing against the romanticization of the commons, she instead positions the urban commons as a pragmatic practice. Through the practice of commoning, she contends, we can learn to build communities to challenge capitalism’s totalizing claims over life.