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Research at St Andrews

Commons Feeling in Animal Welfare and Online Libertarian Activism

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Drawn from anthropological research in Britain, my essay juxtaposes a study of right-wing libertarian activism in London, conducted at the moment their politicking went online, with a study of animal welfare campaigners in Edinburgh. The contrast is prompted by the volume’s invitation to consider how ‘commoning’ arises and for whom. It is not, however, a straightforward account of what is ‘meant by the commons today’. While libertarian activists and animal welfare campaigners both had much to say about the ‘implications of things held, managed and imagined “in common”’, no one directly invoked the historical language of public goods. In what follows, the metaphor is therefore mine; the essay is in part an exercise in reading ‘the commons’ back into popular talk and action around what was, is or ought to be conceived as ‘common’ between them. My ethnographic examples are chosen because in these cases discussions appear to coincide with dramatic moments of identified expansion or shrinkage of common worlds. I am interested in the degree to which ‘tragedy’ may be attached not just to the contraction of what is held in common, but to the very practice of commoning itself, or imagining oneself sharing something in common with another.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReleasing the Commons
Subtitle of host publicationRethinking the futures of the commons
EditorsAsh Amin, Philip Howell
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781315673172
ISBN (Print)9781138942349
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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