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63863-01 - Seminar: Anthropology of the Commons 3 KP

Semester Frühjahrsemester 2022
Angebotsmuster einmalig
Dozierende Lucy Koechlin (lucy.koechlin@unibas.ch, BeurteilerIn)
Inhalt In today's ears, the term "commons" sounds a bit faded. A few decades ago, economists fought heated battles over how to conceptualise the use of and access to resources that are open to all, such as commonly owned land, that are not governed by solely economic principles. We still carry the legacy of these debates. One of the most well-known catch-phrases of an earlier debate still dominates our imagination about shared and socially regulated use of resources, namely the "tragedy of the commons" (Hardin 1968). From a purely economic perspective, the argument goes that jointly owned and used resources will always be overused, as their exploitation benefits individual interests directly and harms the community only indirectly. Later economists, such as Elinor Ostrom, theorised the commons in more nuanced ways, incorporating important social norms that are ignored by a narrow economic approach. Whilst this approach received much attention in the 1990s, it has somewhat disappeared into oblivion since.
And yet: these approaches fall short in understanding common resources as belonging intrinsically to a shared sociality and community, rather than merely being means to an economic end. Moreover, in an age of irreversible anthropogenic transformations of the natural world, an age in which climate change and the boundaries of planetary resources dominate political discourses, the notion of the commons becomes highly relevant again – albeit in a new way, loaded with new meanings, and potentially opening up new imaginaries, new ways of conceiving of social interactions in more sustainable, more meaningful, and less violent ways.
Anthropology has not contributed significantly to this future-oriented way of thinking about shared resources, although its methodological sensitivity to nuanced and diverse understandings of the world are ideally placed for such a conceptualisation. Some innovative inroads provide clues to how the commons could be conceived for the 21st century, however. These are all centered around reconceiving the economy, shifting attention from the "economy" to the centrality of human community (e.g. Stephen Gudeman, or David Graeber). Without a doubt, anthropogenic changes in our natural environment have a huge impact on the way we perceive ourselves and the world in which we live. However, there is still very little systematic reflection on whether the "commons" might be a meaningful and useful way to think about common interests in today's world, whether this is how we relate to the air we breathe in common, the interrelationships of working and living conditions across the globe, or the way we live in relationship to the lives of future generations.
In this seminar, we seek to address this blind spot of anthropology. We will identify the most important contributions in this field, critically discuss their key strengths and weaknesses, and endeavour to connect these strands of thought with the social realities of our time. Ultimately, our challenge will be to sketch out an Anthropology of the Commons for the 21st century.
Lernziele (see above under content)
Literatur Förster, Till. 2021. Existential Transformations – Life in the West African savannah since the 1970s: An outlook. Basel Papers on Political Transformations 22. Institute of Social Anthropology: Basel. Available at https://ethnologie.philhist.unibas.ch/fileadmin/user_upload/ethnologie/Publikationen/Basel_Papers_no_22.pdf

Hardt, Michael and Antonio Tardi. 2009. Commonwealth. The Belnap Press of Harvard University Press: Cambridge.
Here: Chapter 1.1. "Republic of Property", pp. 3–21. Available at https://www.thing.net/~rdom/ucsd/biopolitics/Commonwealth.pdf
Bemerkungen Please note the dates on which the seminar will take place!
A compulsory introduction will take place online on Friday, 25th of February, 12:15-13:45. The Zoom link will be sent to all registered students. In this introduction, the course programme and assignments will be discussed. Students will have the opportunity to clarify any questions.
In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me under lucy.koechlin@unibas.ch


Teilnahmebedingungen The number of participants is limited to 25 people. The places are assigned according to date of enrollment and subject of study. Priority will be given to the subjects listed under "modules".
Unterrichtssprache Englisch
Einsatz digitaler Medien kein spezifischer Einsatz


Intervall Block
Datum 25.02.2022 – 02.04.2022
Zeit Siehe Detailangaben
Datum Zeit Raum
Freitag 25.02.2022 12.15-13.45 Uhr - Online Präsenz -, --
Freitag 18.03.2022 13.15-18.00 Uhr Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 114
Samstag 19.03.2022 09.15-16.00 Uhr Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 114
Freitag 01.04.2022 13.15-18.00 Uhr Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 114
Samstag 02.04.2022 09.15-16.00 Uhr Kollegienhaus, Hörsaal 114
Module Modul: Fields: Governance and Politics (Master Studiengang African Studies)
Modul: Resources and Sustainability (Master Studiengang Changing Societies: Migration – Conflicts – Resources )
Modul: Sachthemen der Ethnologie (Bachelor Studienfach Ethnologie)
Modul: The Urban across Disciplines (Master Studiengang Critical Urbanisms)
Modul: Theory and General Anthropology (Master Studienfach Anthropology)
Modul: Wissenschaftliche Vertiefung in der Ethnologie: Sachthemen (Bachelor Studienfach Ethnologie)
Leistungsüberprüfung Lehrveranst.-begleitend
Hinweise zur Leistungsüberprüfung Type and extent of assignments will be discussed in the online introduction on Friday, 25th of February (details see below).
An-/Abmeldung zur Leistungsüberprüfung Anmelden: Belegen; Abmelden: nicht erforderlich
Wiederholungsprüfung keine Wiederholungsprüfung
Skala Pass / Fail
Wiederholtes Belegen nicht wiederholbar
Zuständige Fakultät Philosophisch-Historische Fakultät, studadmin-philhist@unibas.ch
Anbietende Organisationseinheit Fachbereich Ethnologie