Discussion of the Urban Commons with Mothuir Rahman
Matériel de travail - Séminaire Community Chartering / Remix the commons
Questions proposées par Mothiur en vue de la visite de Civicline
After having read the information I had some exploratory questions as below, not to be answered now but just to hold as we go into the 3 day inquiry. Hopefully they might open areas for exploration through further thoughts and questions from the group.
(A) What is this Space?
1. What is the character of the 3 districts on either side of the Boulevard? Do they have distinct identities and conflicts? What is the historical roots that created the particular districts and the particular communities that exist there? e.g. in Leeds where I was born, many of the Bengalis in Leeds 11 had come from 2 villages in Bangladesh that had a pre-existing rivalry. That rivalry and feud in some ways continued across continents and was an invisible crack which could lead to for example some bengalis going to the Pakistani mosque rather than the mosque built for the bengali community, which has knock on effects.
2. Who owns the land under the subway? What is the character of the City Council, conservative or liberal/left? What is the relationship of the City Council towards co-operation with civic groups, in other words is there a "Public and Social" Partnership model that exists?
3. What is the natural landscape of the land now hidden by the urban environment? Are there rivers/brooks that have/had a function in the landscape which could be revived or which could act to unite people? (This is part of the work I am doing for The Flow Partnership, using the threat of flooding to bring people to a closer knowledge of their local landscape and place (http://www.theflowpartnership.org)).
4. What kind of economies are represented in this space now? What kind of economies do we want to be represented in this space in the future if we "feed-forward" to that vision?
5. What need is being met by the nascent economies now existing in the space and what would a system of governance look like which met those needs?
6. Following the public consultation, what is the process that the City Council must follow? What can civic groups do if the outcome of the consultation is not to their liking?
7. How involved are the residents themselves with the consultation, as opposed to civil society groups on their behalf? What is the predominant language (if any) spoken by residents of these districts?
8. How useful are other examples from other countries of disused urban space being used productively (e.g. the Highline in New York) when the cultural/legal/social/political landscape for each country will be very different?
(B) A Charter for the Boulevard
1. What is the purpose of the Charter? To bring people together or to have legal effect?
2. What are the needs of the various communities that the Charter could be there to meet? (e.g. what are the needs of the migrants and refugees who have occupied and used this space, what are the needs of the residents in the surrounding neighbourhoods, what are the needs of the Council which it is trying to meet through the consultation?)
3. What is the difference in terms of output between a consultation that works to open spaces for embodied temporal conversations, and a consultation that asks questions for written fixed answers?
(C) Is there a need amongst the migrants and refugees in this landscape which has similarities to the needs of hawkers and peddlers in ancient England?
1. Totnes Market is an ancient market that goes back to the mediavel period, granted by Royal Charter. In many ways, the law of Markets and Fairs has not changed much since then, there is not much in the way of overarching legislation that puts such ancient markets onto a modern statutory footing, they are often still run under common law principles.
2. I have been helping a Totnes market trader who has been trying to set up a "Market Traders Association" so that the market could be given new impetus and be run by the Traders, rather than by a distant local authority which is being autocratic in its decision-making that doesn't meet the needs of the Traders. This has been met with resistance from the local authority and I am helping with finding legal arguments to prevent such abuse of power.
3. Through such discussions, I am beginning to think that these ancient markets are historically more like a commons, a P2P (peer to peer) commons for the local community to trade.
4. I was given the example of a person who has nothing other than 2 chickens in ancient times. If that person had no right to go to the market-place to sell their eggs they would starve. I believe this could be an example of a law of the commons that comes, not from an "urban relationship" (see my email to Frederic following our earlier discussion), but directly from the needs to be met of the community of people living on that land.
5. Hawkers and peddlers are those who sold goods without a fixed place to sell for their wares, thus exercising their right without the constraint that the common law also put on traders (for a fixed place to sell wares, they would need the consent of the market manager). The question then becomes who is the market manager? Is that something from outside (this is the situation now, with the market under the control of the local authority), or something that comes from within (which would be more of a commons and I think closer to the original concept which has a modern echo in P2P structures).
6. Are there examples of ancient markets in mainland Europe where such principles as above could also be extracted? An urban commons maintained by legal relationships sourced from a "non-urban" way of living?