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Refiguring the Common and the Political

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - HETEROPOLITICS (Refiguring the Common and the Political)

Reporting period: 2018-12-01 to 2020-12-31

Since the dawn of the 21st century, a growing interest in rethinking and reconfiguring community and politics has spread among theorists and citizens.
There is a pressing need for drastic collective commitments that will effectively address climate change. Liberal democracies are beset with popular alienation and dwindling participation.
Economic crises have stimulated the search for new forms of community economies.
Finally, rising xenophobia raises with renewed urgency the question of how to live in common with newcomers and how to reach a global common understanding.

These issues are essentially political. Hence ‘hetero-politics,' the quest for another politics, which can establish bonds of commonality across differences and enable action in common
without re-enacting the closures of ‘organic’ community or the violence of transformative politics in the past.

The overarching objective of Heteropolitics has been to contribute to this much-needed rethinking of the common and the political in tandem.

The research project breaks new ground by combining: i) a critical and creative re-elaboration of contemporary political theory with
(ii) a more empirically grounded research into new social movements and initiatives which explored alternative democratic ways of doing politics and building communities.

The ultimate aim has been to elaborate new ideas and practices of the common and the political, in search of better ways of living in common and governing ourselves.
Work Package 1 (months 1-6 in 2017) involved a literature review and methodological orientation,

while the core Work Package 2 (months 7-26 in 2017-19) consisted in intensive fieldwork in the selected sites,
along with further critical-creative conceptual work.

Work Package 3 (months 25-40 in 2019-20) involved the production of the final scientific studies-reports and journal articles derived from them.

Work Packages 4 (dissemination), 5 (management) and 6 (ethics) were successfully completed by December 2020.


The main research outcomes of the project are set out in the core final publications of the project,
which are six extended reports on theory and fieldwork addressing the key research questions of the project,
and six articles submitted to peer-reviewed scientific journals, drawn from the reports.

The reports are self-published online at heteropolitics.net and ikee.auth.gr.
The articles will be also available in an open-access format upon publication.

A volume of conference proceedings (WP1) has been published, along with three scientific articles on commons, music, education and community currencies,
published open-access in peer-reviewed journals (see heteropolitics.net).

Several further project publications have been produced, which were not part of the original research plan (see heteropolitics.net).
Finally, a collective volume is planned for 2021.


Main mature outcomes in fieldwork, conceptual work and publications:

1. A main plank of the research involved fieldwork in communities which self-manage collective goods, and in alternative civic politics which contribute to democratic renewal.

This has taken place in: a) the Sarantaporo community network, Greece; b) the ‘ecosystem of co-operativism’ in Karditsa, Greece; c) the municipality of Patras, Greece;
d) the Cavalerizza collective art space and commons, in Torino, Italy; e) the similar case of ‘Ex-Asilo Filangieri’ in Naples, Italy, which has initiated the process of participatory ‘civic use’ of public spaces in collaboration with the municipality;
f) the municipal movement and government in Barcelona (Barcelona en Comú), Spain; g) self-organized childcare in Barcelona, Spain.
Field research was conducted mainly by the three post-doctoral researchers of the project, in close collaboration with the Principal Investigator.

The specific choices that we have made for the case studies turned out to be highly apt and relevant, speaking directly to our research questions.

2. Drawing on critical conceptual work and the fieldwork, we have outlined in our publications an emergent figure of new active citizenship.
All communities we studied have deliberately undertaken a different style of civic democratic politics around a common good.
They give rise thus to a new mode of active citizenship and community, whose key features consist in:

collaborative self-organized work on new projects with social impact (in education, improved urban spaces, infrastructure, economic activity etc.),
combined with an emphasis on individual autonomy and horizontality;
the weaving of local and global connections beyond nationalisms and exclusions;
diversity and openness;
pragmatism: emphasis on co-work rather than on ideologies, cultural identities etc.;
co-administration of citizens with municipal authorities;
an ethic of active citizens’ care for communities and the environment.

A key question addressed in detail in our research and publications is strategic: how can this kind of politics be promoted on the level of cities and beyond, through reforms in the political system, legislation, and broader alliance-building.

In addition to publications, research outcomes have been disseminated through numerous other activities, including a conference and nine workshops, twenty five presentations in conferences, events etc., five videos, more than fifty activities in social media.
The core innovation of the project is the introduction of the theory of hegemony and agonistic politics (A. Gramsci, C. Mouffe, E. Laclau, J. Tully et al.) in the discussion of the commons,
and the orientation of relevant ethnography through the new theoretical framework produced thereby.

This is an unprecedented gesture in both contemporary political theory and commons studies, which helps to tackle issues poorly addressed in the theories and practices of the commons:
questions bearing on power structures, division, exclusion, social heterogeneity and fragmentation, relations to institutions, the key challenge of constructing broad-based political alliances
in order to bring about changes in the balance of forces and to foster transformations towards the commons.

The conjunction of the two different theoretical and practical/political traditions -of the commons and hegemony/agonism- enabled us to capture really existing trends and potentials
towards constructive syntheses in contemporary commons and alternative democratic politics. These were fleshed out in the two main theoretical reports, and throughout all reports,
under the labels of ‘common hegemony,’ ‘agonistic commons,’ ‘populism 2.0’ and ‘another leadership,’ through which the Heteropolitics research has reconfigured contemporary political theory
to grasp various processes of 'commoning the political,' i.e. of opening up politics to ordinary citizens on a footing of equality.

These conceptual frames and analyses can be useful for empirical inquiries and a more conscious pursuit of ‘common politics’ for the common good and democratic renewal.
Research outcomes also offer critical accounts of political practices and strategies through which such alternative civic politics can be effectively promoted in connection with existing institutions,
mainly in city administration and legislation (‘municipalism’, ‘civic use’ etc.), and through specific patterns of self-organization and collective mobilization, such as ‘common hegemony.'
Assembly of Teatro Valle, Rome, commons in art 2011