Episode 50 – Community and Commons (Urban Concepts)

In this first episode of the Urban Concept series, Louis Volont (MIT, Boston) and Thijs Lijster (University of Groningen) discuss with Talja Blokland (Humboldt University, Berlin) the concepts of community and commons and consider implications for urban research and action. The key argument revolves around the idea of community as a practice, not an owning, its relationship to the common and the exploration of the urban dimension. 

The Urban Concept series introduces key urban concepts and reflects on their relevance in the fields of theory, research and politics.

Our guests:

Louis Volont 

Louis is an urban sociologist from Antwerp, Belgium. He’s currently a post-doc at MIT’s School of Architecture & Planning (Program in Art, Culture & Technology), where he researches poetic, choreographic and sonic ways of representing lived spaces. His other interests are urban activism, urban commons, the thought of Henri Lefebvre and socio-technical imaginaries. Louis’ work was featured earlier in Antipode, City & Community and Social Inclusion.

Thijs Lijster

Thijs is assistant professor in the philosophy of art and culture at the University of Groningen, and postdoctoral researcher at the Culture Commons Quest Office of the University of Antwerp. He studied philosophy in Groningen and New York, and received his PhD at the University of Groningen in 2012. He was awarded with the ABG/VN Essay prize in 2009, the Dutch/Flemish Prize for Young Art Critics in 2010, the NWO/Boekman dissertation prize in 2015, and the Essay Prize of the Royal Academy of Dutch Language and Literature (KANTL) in 2018. His books, in Dutch and English, include De grote vlucht inwaarts The great leap inward, Benjamin and Adorno on Art and Art Criticism (2017), Kijken, proeven, denken Seeing, tasting, thinking, and Verenigt U! Unite! and he was editor of the books Spaces for Criticism. Shifts in Contemporary Art Discourses (2015) and The Future of the New. Artistic Innovation in Times of Social Acceleration (2018). Forthcoming are the edited volume The Rise of the Commons City (with Louis Volont and Pascal Gielen) and the book Wat we gemeen hebben [What we have in common].


Talja Blokland 

Talja is an urban sociologist who has worked at Yale University, the University of Manchester and various Dutch universities. Since 2009, she has held the chair of Urban and Regional Sociology at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Her publications include Urban Bonds (Polity 2003), Creating the Unequal City (edited with C. Giustozzi, D. Krüger and H. Schilling, Ashgate 2016), Community as Urban Practice (Polity 2017), and various articles on race and ethnicity in the city, poor neighbourhoods, urban violence, gentrification, urban middle classes and neighbourhood relations and everyday interactions.