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Urban commoning practices in the repair movement: Frontstaging the backstage

Journal article
Authors María José Zapata Campos
Patrik Zapata
Maria Isabel Ordonez
Published in Environment and planning A
ISSN 0308-518X
Publication year 2020
Published at School of Public Administration
Department of Business Administration
Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI)
Language en
Keywords Commons, repair movement, frontstaging and backstaging practices, politics of repair, Bike Kitchen
Subject categories Public Administration Studies, Sociology, Business Administration


Citizen-led repair initiatives that collectively create urban commons, questioning the configuration of production, consumption, and discarding within neoliberal capitalism, have emerged in recent years. This paper builds on recent discussions of the openness of the commons by examining the role of repair in commoning. It is informed by the case of the Bike Kitchen in Göteborg, using in-depth interviews as well as ethnographic and visual observations to support the analysis. Through repair practices, commoning communities can reinvent, appropriate, and create urban commons by transforming private resources – bicycles – creating common, liminal, and porous spaces between state and market. This openness of the commons allows commoners to shift roles unproblematically, alternating between the commons, state, and market. We argue that commoners’ fluid identities become the vehicle by which urban commoning practices expands beyond the commons space. This fluidity and openness also fuels the broad recruitment of participants driven by diverse and entangled rationales. Beyond the porosity of spatial arrangements, we illustrate how the dramaturgic representation of space, through simultaneous frontstaging and backstaging practices, also prevents its enclosure and allows the creation of openings through which urban commoning practices are accessed by newcomers. Finally, we call into question strict definitions of ‘commoner’ and the commoning/repair movement as limited to those who are politically engaged in opposing the enclosure of the commons. Rather, commoners become political through action, so intentionality is less relevant to prompting social change than is suggested in the literature.

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