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Emerging commons

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This special issue explores the idea of commons, placing it in a theoretical but also richly empirical context. In this introductory article, we highlight the depth and diversity of the scholarship on commons represented in this issue. Drawing from the articles that follow, we examine a range of commons that share a dependency upon the collective and local ownership of land, resources or ideas, held in an often communal manner and sometimes in opposition to private property. We begin by returning to land as the original locus of commons and trace the importance of issues of public space and public access. In moving beyond a land-based and unitary conception of commons, we analyse the emergence of richer understandings of commons, divorced from physical or geographical entities — cultural and historical commons, and environmental commons including the idea of a `Global Commons'. In these different settings, we consider how the idea of `the commons' can work as a signifier — of resistance, community, collective action and common values.

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