Friday, March 01, 2013

The Commons

The 1805 Ordnance Survey Map shows some of the unenclosed common land of SE London. Peckham Rye Common covered a much larger area than the current park. The land to the south of what is now Lewisham Way, between Deptford and Brockley, was Deptford Common.

The Well to its South East was presumably the Lady Well (hence obviously Ladywell). Oh and the Folly in Peckham was 'Heaton's Folly' on what is now Heaton Road, about which I'll have to write another time. The dotted line down the middle marks the Kent/Surrey border I believe - Surrey to the left, Kent to the right.

Those commons were enclosed and largely built on in the 19th century, notwithstanding some remaining parks and green spaces. Are their different kinds of commons today, and indeed new forms of enclosure? That is something that is being explored by New Cross Commoners, a new group looking at 'commoning' in the local area (something they describe as 'a process of coming together and doing things together that differs from the private and the public/State controlled ways of doing things'). They are meeting and discussing contemporary theorists of the common, such as Massimo De Angelis, as well as having excursions to possible examples of common practice such as Sanford Housing Co-op and the Creekside Houseboat community.

Here's a map some of them started on during a workshop at New Cross Learning (the old library) - presumably in this schema Fordham Park and Sandford represent some kinds of common but the Supermarket (Sainsburys) represent some kind of enclosure. Some interesting ideas, though with their own contradictions. For instance does replacing a properly funded and staffed library, run by the Council, with a volunteer led project llike New Cross Learning represent enclosure (the loss of a public service) or commoning (the creation of a new kind of common space)? Or a bit of both? Is a common future prefigured only in 'alternative' spaces or in the social labour of the supermarket where people from all over the world encounter each other and the products of global human effort (albeit in the context of a profit-driven corporate supply chain)? Discuss!

Check out their blog for information about future activities.

If contemporary radical theory is your thing you might also be interested in a talk coming up at Goldsmiths in New Cross on on 19 March 2013, with  New York-based wrtier Jodi Dean introducing her book 'The Communist Horizon' which aims to chart 'the re-emergence of communism as a magnet for political energy following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the stalling of the Occupy movement'.

The event takes place  in Rm 309, 3rd Floor, Richard Hoggart Building, 19:00 – 21:00 (organised by Centre for Cultural Studies, free, all welcome).

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