California Studies Association

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Iain Boal on Reinventing the Commons, Feb. 17 San Francisco

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The Studio for Urban Projects

3579 17th Street, San Francisco 94110

Wednesday February 17th 7:00 pm

for a conversation withIain Boal on Reinventing the Commons

Space is limited. Please RSVP to <>

Suggested donation $5-$15

Iain Boal will introduce for discussion the major themes – enclosure and common – that inform two forthcoming books. The Long Theft: Episodes in the History of Enclosure (Faber and Faber) traces key episodes in the history of ‘enclosure’ – the fencing off, literally and figuratively, of the world’s commoners from their means of livelihood. The dispossession of commoners worldwide continues under the banner of neoliberalism’s “structural adjustments”, justified as a necessary measure to avoid the “tragedy of the commons”, even though the result is a planet of slums. The enclosures of late modernity take unexpected and protean forms – for example, the criminalization of street life in favor of traffic circulation, the privatizing of the airwaves and the electromagnetic spectrum, brazen claims of ownership under new regimes of intellectual property, the sequestration and poisoning of immense tracts of land by the world’s military and nuclear powers (creating a global geography of sacrifice), the barcoding and expropriation of germplasm via the technologies of transfection, the trading of the atmosphere in an attempt to combat ecocide. The Long Theft is ultimately an argument for the restauration of the commons and an end to the commodity’s unhappy reign.

The Green Machine (Notting Hill Editions) offers a new history of the bicycle adequate to the 21st century. It traces its heterogeneous origins (busting some Eurocentric myths along the way), celebrates its freewheeling sociability and the part that human powered mobility must play in the settlements of the future, but refuses to disavow the bicycle’s entanglement with capitalist modernity’s brutal labor process and its complicity with the automobilism that has paved the planet, rendered cities unconvivial, and now threatens the biosphere itself.


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