Alternative Futures with Dr Owain Hanmer

Published: 19 January 2022

28 January. Reimagining: Commoning

landscape garden

Reimagining: Commoning

Friday 28 January 3.30pm-5.00pm
Online event 

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As part of our Alternative Futures seminar series, we were delighted to host this online seminar with speaker Dr Owain Hanmer from the University of Cardiff. Dr Hanmer is a social and political geographer with an interest in the potential for social and political transformation from below. He is very interested in the apparent emergence of “community” as a site of struggle and possibility, and how this unfolding dynamic relates with the state, and the broader social and political implications of this. Theoretically, he engages with a mix of traditions from anarchism, Pragmatism (especially Dewey), and Marxist Autonomism. He carried out his PhD research in the School of Geography and Planning at Cardiff University, his thesis was titled ‘Retirement and the everyday politics of commoning in urban gardens’. He is now doing a postdoc at Cardiff University based on action research and the possibilities, challenges, and contradictions of community power and public participation in local government.


Although the commons has emerged as a central aspect of an energetic and nascent post-capitalist imaginary, there are a number of ambiguities and contradictions in theory and practice which require further exploration, especially of the more dynamic aspect of commoning, which itself invites empirical engagement. However, the current literature often focuses on the explicitly political and radical potential of the commons, often overlooking the everyday mundanity of a lot of existing commoning activities. Urban gardens are often described as actually-existing commons, although they are also noted for their ambiguity (and perhaps contradictions) and can likewise suffer from romanticism. This research was based on in-depth ethnographic fieldwork in urban gardens in Cardiff and focuses on the mundane, prosaic, and everyday actions of retired gardeners as a form of commoning. Doing so highlights the possibilities and limitations of commoning (in theory and practice) through exploring the way that these everyday practices relate with capital and the state.

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First published: 19 January 2022

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