book, I have no hesitation in saying that it is a welcome addition to the existing body of literature on the city and on urban studies in. South Asia and elsewhere.
2674 often celebrated in exhibits, blogs, and films as signs of innovation, ingenuity, and smallscale entrepreneurialism. In this concluding chapter, Anjaria, discusses a provisional outline for the contemporary transnationalisation of the Mumbai Street. Thus, in The Slow Boil, Anjaria, has categorically sought to go beyond the improvisational city perspective, which sees only structural inequality. He further stresses that urban analysis must find a way to not have to choose one perspective at the expense of the other in order to highlight the way this tension itself produces urban life (p. 181). Thus, after a thorough reading of the book, I have no hesitation in saying that it is a welcome addition to the existing body of literature on the city and on urban studies in South Asia and elsewhere. It also serves as core reading for scholars and professionals of Anthropology, Sociology, Public Policy, Economics, Urban Studies and Planning, Regional and Area Studies, and Development Studies. We have to commend the initiative of Jonathan Shapiro Anjaria for taking up the hard task and producing this ethnographic treatise of the Mumbai Street for us.
Stavros Stavrides, Common Space: The City as Commons, Zed Books: London, 2016; 320 pp.: 978-1-7836-0327-5, £16.99 (pbk) Reviewed by: Matina Kapsali and Maria Karagianni, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece Debates on the urban commons have gained ground during the last decade, in academic and activist circles alike. In what has grown to be a vast academic literature, scholars from fields as diverse as urban and human geography, sociology, political theory and urban planning, have demonstrated that the urban commons could provide the way
Urban Studies 54(11) forward for the creation of more just and democratic urban futures. Stavros Stavrides, an architect, activist and academic, has already written extensively on issues pertaining to commoning practices and their emancipatory potential (Stavrides, 2002, 2007, 2010a, 2010b, 2012, 2014, 2015). This book comes to be added in a series of recently edited volumes that look deeper in the theory and practice of the urban commons (Borch and Kornberger, 2015; Dellenbaugh et al., 2015; Robles-Duran, 2014). But, notwithstanding the significant inputs of the aforementioned volumes, Stavrides’ book is the first book-length attempt to produce a coherent analysis framework on the urban commons. Stavrides’ goal in Common Space: The City as Commons is to explore the ways in which common spaces, as alternatives that not only are against but also move beyond capitalism, are produced through ‘collective inventiveness’ (p. 6). At the same time, the main underlying thread of the book is that ‘commoning can remain commoning only if it keeps expanding to include newcomers’ (p. 221). According to De Angelis (foreword), this book is the first theoretical book ‘to problematize space as commons and not only as commodity or state-managed space or pure ruin brought about by war’ (p. xiv). In doing so, Stavrides’ project unfolds through an exploration of spatial transformation and political subjectivation processes, as they unravel in and through inhabited spaces, without forgetting that ‘[c]ommoning is a process, not a state, not a materiality’ (p. 259). Worth mentioning is that the author builds on the premise that within the contested discussion on commons, everyone should pick a side. This underpins the book’s raison d’ etre, which is ‘to explore the emerging potentialities of resistance and creative alternatives beyond contemporary forms of domination in today’s cities’ (p. 1).
Book reviews The book consists of nine chapters organised over three parts. In the first part, Stavrides addresses the theoretical tenets of common space that run throughout the book. Chapter 1 unpacks the processes of urban space normalisation based on the metaphor of the contemporary city as an archipelago. Revisiting Foucault’s work on power mechanisms and Agamben’s on the state of exception, Stavrides points out that ‘normalizing the urban sea’ requires new mechanisms and governance arrangements, but, as he emphasises, it ‘cannot be totally controlled’ (p. 26). In Chapter 2, Stavrides theorises space commoning by drawing on the work of contemporary intellectuals such as Rancie`re, Linebaugh, Hardt and Negri. Stavrides introduces the concept of ‘institutions of expanding commoning’ in order to unfold his understanding of the production of common spaces and subjectivities. Being the opposite of the ‘dominant institutions’ and distinct from ‘institutions of commoning’ (as these may imply practices of ‘enclosed commoning’), institutions of expanding commoning present three characteristics: comparability, translatability and power sharing. The dynamic, porous and always in-the-making spaces that are produced destabilise the dominant ordering of urban spaces and the ‘city of enclaves’, as it was described in the previous chapter of the book, creating worlds of commoning. The above reflections lead Stavrides to the second part of the book, where he explores inhabited common spaces in four chapters by focusing on social housing in an Athenian neighbourhood (Chapter 3), spaces of cohabitation in social housing complexes (Chapter 4), metropolitan streets (Chapter 5) and occupied squares (Chapter 6). These sites are examined in terms of their potentialities for building ‘common worlds’, through an excavation of the emancipating urban practices that each of them embody. Stavrides brings insights from
2675 the theory and practice of architecture and urban planning (Haussmann, Le Corbusier, Russian Constructivism, Bauhaus, gentrification policies and the ‘shared-space’ approach to planning) and in parallel he mobilises, amongst other concepts, Foucault’s ‘heterotopias’, Benjamin’s ‘porosity’ and Holston’s ‘insurgent citizenship’, to develop a nuanced analysis of each space and community’s morphological and functional characteristics. For Stavrides, common space is not based on the very form of the space that is given or negotiated over, but on the relations built between the community members and the community’s relations towards newcomers. Part three elaborates on the significance of collectively envisaging common spaces by demonstrating the potentials of defacement acts (Chapter 7), thought-images (Chapter 8) and images of freedom and emancipation (Chapter 9). In Chapter 7, drawing on Taussig and Benjamin, Stavrides shows how defacing acts can generate ruptures in urban memory and ‘give form to struggles over the definitions of [spatial or temporal] intermediary zones’ (p. 184). Therefore, such acts can produce new shared knowledges and convert public space to common space. In Chapter 8, Stavrides supports that thought-images can transcend ‘existing realities of common worlds’ (p. 221) rendering the commons open to newcomers, and are, thus, ‘an efficient weapon for the struggle over the meaning of common space’ (p. 211). Rancie`re’s writings on dissensus serve here to further elaborate on thinking-in-common, which can disturb the dominant distribution of the sensible. In this part’s final chapter (9), Stavrides focuses on images of freedom and emancipation and, through the case of the occupied Navarinou Park in Athens, demonstrates how space representations which build on multiplicity and diversity could better describe a spatiality of emancipation. Stavrides closes the book with a powerful note on the conceptualisation of common
2676 space. As he mentions ‘common space cannot be reduced to a place . [it] needs to include newcomers . to struggle for an emancipated society [and] may happen in, against and beyond capitalism’ (p. 262). Stavrides’ book is a collection of new texts and developed versions of his articles that have been published in journals and books since 2007. Key concepts of his work, such as porosity, theatricality and threshold spatiality are used throughout the book to uncover the radical and emancipatory dimensions of urban commoning. Repeating his key ideas does not diminish the book’s academic contribution. On the contrary, bringing all these together contributes to the production of a holistic understanding of urban commoning practices in and through urban space in contemporary cities. The strength of this book lies in the depth of the analysis of the debates covered, as Stavrides effectively discusses key elements of urban commoning with reference to both contemporary thinkers as well as urban practices and movements. Unpicking, amongst others, Foucault, Agamben, Bourdieu, Hardt, Negri, Holloway and Rancie`re, Stavrides makes a detailed analysis of contemporary and older issues, pinpointing each time their potential contribution in our understanding of the city as commons. Hence, one of the key contributions of the book is that the author brings together these political theorists, architectural and urban planning movements/theories and contemporary social and political movements. Another powerful aspect of the publication is how Stavrides escapes the Eurocentrism that often predominates in the literature on the urban commons. Indeed, he engages with important aspects of the postcolonial tradition and comparative urbanism, by exploring multiple case studies from cities around the globe, while systematically drawing comparisons across the North–South divide.
Urban Studies 54(11) However, Stavrides omits to refer to gender issues pertaining to urban commoning practices and does not attempt to incorporate in his analysis a feminist approach, despite the growing feminist literature (BennholdtThomsen and Mies, 1999; Federici, 2011) according to which common spaces can – and should – be examined as potential sites where gender inequalities can be reversed and challenged. Such a reading of commoning could provide valuable insights to the urban commons literature, specifically when incorporated in the analysis of cases such as the housing experiments of cohabitation, discussed in Chapter 4. In this part, while Stavrides questions the ways through which collective identities are constructed and performed in the housing projects, he does not relate the engendered labour performed in the domestic sphere to reproductive practices in urban space. So, recognising the important insights that his analysis provides, the gender dimension could make this and future explorations of the urban commons richer. In conclusion, the book accomplishes its goal to provide a reading of common spaces as threshold spaces that are dynamic and always-in-the-making. The author manages to relate this theoretical tenet to contemporary and older urban practices, establishing a fruitful dialogue between theory and practice. So, Common Space: The City as Commons deserves a broad readership. The book will appeal not only to scholars across many disciplines, but also to activists who seek to engage with the significance of urban space for their political action. References Bennholdt-Thomsen V and Mies M (1999) The Subsistence Perspective: Beyond the Globalised Economy. New York: Zed Books. Borch C and Kornberger M (2015) Urban Commons: Rethinking the City. New York: Routledge.
Book reviews Dellenbaugh M, Kip M, Bieniok M, et al. (2015) Urban Commons: Moving Beyond State and Market. Basel, Berlin: Birkha¨user Verlag. Federici S (2011) Feminism and the politics of the commons. Available at: http://www.commo ner.org.uk/?p=113. Robles-Duran M (2014) Make_Shift City: Renegotiating the Urban Commons. Berlin: Jovis. Stavrides S (2002) From the City-Screen to the City-Stage. Athens: Ellinika Grammata. Stavrides S (2007) Heterotopias and the experience of porous urban space. In: Franck KA and Stevens Q (eds) Loose Space: Possibility and Diversity in Urban Life. London: Routledge, pp. 174–192. Stavrides S (2010a) The December 2008 youth uprising in Athens: Spatial justice in an
2677 emergent ‘city of thresholds’. Spatial Justice 2, pp. 1–10. Available at: https://www.scribd.com/document/328037413/Spatial-Justice-in-an-Emergent-City-Of-Thresholds (accessed 28 May 2017). Stavrides S (2010b) Towards the City of Thresholds. Trento: Professionaldreamers. Stavrides S (2012) Squares in movement. South Atlantic Quarterly 111(3): 585–596. Stavrides S (2014) Emerging common spaces as a challenge to the city of crisis. City 18(4–5): 546–550. Stavrides S (2015) Common space as threshold space: Urban commoning in struggles to reappropriate public space. Footprint 9(1): 9–19.