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[Commlist] Call for Submissions-NCA Preconference on the Commons

Tue Sep 08 11:36:00 GMT 2020

Contact: Matthew Bost ((bostmw /at/ <mailto:(bostmw /at/>)

Preconference Date: November 18, 2020; the preconference will be virtually hosted via Zoom

Deadline for Submissions: September 18, 2020

The Economics, Communication and Society division of NCA, in conjunction with the Critical/Cultural Studies, Environmental Communication, and Rhetorical and Communication Theory divisions, invites submissions to a preconference on the theme “Commons at the Crossroads: Abundant Subjectivities, Diverse Communities, and New Strategies for Worldmaking.”

Concepts of /the common/, /commons/, and /commoning/ have recently emerged across the critical humanities as a way of accounting for the systemic and collective processes that constitute living systems, ecologically, socially, and politically, and the ways those processes are exploited and appropriated by regimes of inequality. These concepts have also emerged as an optic for considering social movements and communities that have organized around the collective, sustainable, governance of the commons as a key aspect of meliorative social change. More recently, the commons has been offered as a trope for considering strategies of solidarity and coalition that might move critical discussions of capitalism beyond the monolithic figure of the working class, embracing the differences between various subject positions and struggles as powerful, interactive, elements of social change.

Within communication studies, the commons has been taken up as a way of considering the cooperative nature of communicative and informational labor and its capture by capitalism, as well as an alternative framework to democratic deliberation for collective decision making and governance in urban space. These uptakes of the commons draw on a much vaster array of interdisciplinary literature that incorporates philosophy, critical geography, anthropology, the politics of coalition, and studies of the communicative dynamics of social movements, peoples’ assemblies and community organizations, among many other disciplines and approaches. Interdisciplinary literatures on the commons have also been one of the key approaches foregrounding the relationship between struggles for social change and the more-than-human ecologies and actors that shape them. Concepts and practices associated with the commons offer a powerful vocabulary for theorizing the racialized, gendered and classed precarity heightened under the COVID-19 pandemic, the practices of care work and mutual aid that have emerged in response to these inequalities, and the communities and solidarities generated by resistance to anti-Black racism and police violence, calls to end mass detention and deportation of undocumented migrants, calls to abolish policing and the carceral state, and other forms of resistance to state violence. At the same time, the political urgencies of the present call commons literature to account for its potential erasure of difference and inequality, especially in purportedly egalitarian spaces that adopt commoning rhetorics, and attest that, while productive, the commons is not a conceptual panacea for contemporary precarity and structural inequality.

We seek papers that expand communication studies’ engagement with the commons, either by furthering conversations between existing uptakes of the commons by communication scholars and interdisciplinary iterations of the concept, or by highlighting new formations, concepts, and practices of commoning. We especially seek submissions that use the commons as a starting point for exploring urgent tensions in communication studies, whether engaging communication scholarship’s commitments to activism and social justice, forging new connections between theory, critical scholarship, fieldwork, and communicative practice, or considering the commons (and its mirror in the undercommons) as a way of assessing the structural inequalities that shape communication scholarship, education, and professional organization. We also seek submissions that use the commons as a starting point for responding to structural precarity and violence as aspects of contemporary U.S. life, and as they have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and for considering resistances and alternatives to the present moment.

This preconference’s engagement with the commons is shaped by three central questions. First, we solicit presentations that use the commons to reflect on* different levels of scale*, from the production of intersectional subjectivities to the fostering of deliberation among diverse communities to the study of entangled relationships among economics, communication and the nonhuman.Following Lauren Berlant’s discussion of commons as infrastructure, our conversation invites consideration of different levels of the relational fabric of the contemporary world and the historical forces that inform it, prompting scholars to speak to the felt impacts of history and structure, as well as the ways that the simplest everyday actions can make worlds.

Second, we invite submissions that use the commons to* explore relationships between identity, difference, and their intersections*.While Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, and other prominent theorists of the commons have offered itas a site where people from radically different socioeconomic and geographic positions can find points of shared ground and political interests, scholars like Fred Moten and Stefano Harney have highlighted that the purported egalitarianism of many common spaces, whether university knowledge commons or cooperative community economic structures, can function to hide precarity and exploitation within these spaces (especially racialized, gendered and ablized precarity) and deny those who are excluded from such spaces a voice. We see the relationship between identity and difference in the commons as a powerful site for addressing questions of intersectionality in cultural studies of economics, and in activism around socioeconomic injustice, environmental racism, and other crucial sites of contemporary social justice activism.

Third, we seek submissions exploring the relationship between the commons and the *plural practices* of communicative production that traverse it. In contrast to critics who portray capitalism as a monolithic system, J.K. Gibson-Graham and many other contemporary scholars of cultural economics have emphasized the plurality of different communal, local, and global economic practices that already exist, ranging from small-scale practices of community credit and barter to resource-sharing within schools and religious institutions, to local producer and consumer cooperatives like CSAs and meat-sharing coops, to various informal, grey, or black markets that exist alongside capitalism. These scholars have argued for the utility of thinking about the contemporary world as already in some sense “post-capitalist”, both for the egalitarian economic practices this frame allows proponents of economic and social change to affirm, and for the questions it raises about inequalities that are not reducible to the negative impact of capitalist markets. We take Gibson-Graham’s provocation as an invitation to advance conversations about the relationship between fieldwork and theory in communication studies, the disparate work done by larger theoretical perspectives relative to more provisional and embodied concepts, and the plurality of practices, scholarly and economic, that form a common ground between our different approaches.

In addition to panel discussions focused on the above themes and composed of submitted presentations, the preconference will host a plenary session featuring communication studies scholars whose work intersects with the commons from a variety of perspectives, including discourses around energy democracy and sustainability, struggles over communicative labor within contemporary informational capitalism, and the commons as a vocabulary for considering property, sovereignty, and the collective control of urban space. Our plenary speakers are *Ralph Cintron*//(Latin American and Latino Studies and English, University of Illinois, Chicago), *Ronald Walter Greene *(Communication Studies, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities), and *Tarla Rai Peterson* (Communication, University of Texas, El Paso).

We will also host a keynote address by//*Lessie Jo Frazier*, Associate Professor of Gender Studies and American Studies, and Affiliated Scholar with the Elinor Ostrom Workshop at Indiana University, Bloomington. Dr. Frazier’s work focuses on power, subjectivity and ideology as they relate to questions of political economy, focusing especially on the ways that race, gender, and sexuality have shaped political culture in the Americas. Her work catalyzes the questions of the relationship between the commons, identity, and subjectivity on which the preconference is centered, and engages these questions from the perspective of global, transformative social change.

Scholars interested in submitting to the preconference as a presenter should provide a presentation title, an abstract of no more than 250 words, and their author and institutional information to Matthew Bost ((bostmw /at/ <mailto:(bostmw /at/>) by September 18, 2020. Scholars interested in participating in the preconference as an audience member, without presenting, should send their name, institutional affiliation, and 2-3 sentences specifying their interest in the conference to Matthew Bost ((bostmw /at/ <mailto:(bostmw /at/>) by September 18, 2020. Participants will be notified of acceptance in mid-to-late September.

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