Liminal Commons

This is a concept coined by greek scholar and activist Aggelos Varvarousis, based on the work of anthropologist Victor Turner wiki . (see Varvarousis on Commoning)

My interest is directed towards studying forms of commoning that develop within crisis and emergency, and which can catalyze new transformations in rapidly changing conditions.. (p.38)

# Features

"Community in liminal commons is a fluid and temporal arrangement, [...] it is characterized by great instability and high membership turnover." (p.37) HEIGHT 300 This is the presentation LIMINAL COMMONS prepared by ANGELOS VARVAROUSIS & GIORGOS KALLIS for the Degrowth Conference in Budapest 2015

"Both the manifestation of individual identities and the formation of collective identities are discouraged in liminal commons, because they are recognized as obstacles in the process of commoning. Liminal commons unfold in contestable spaces or in spaces susceptible to contestation, such as public spaces."

The capacity of liminality to promote commoning is contagious. This implies that it is not necessary for potential subjects of commoning to have faced themselves the traumatic experience of being forcefully deterritorialized, as the widespread destabilization upends everything, to varying degrees. In other words, while liminality is a condition that stems from negation and destabilization of identity, subsequently it becomes a practice and gives birth to a generalized culture of putting aside existing differences and establishing connections among them. Liminality promotes patience, mutual respect, negotiation and tolerance. (p.75)

The space of liminal commons is a crisis-scape that transforms according to rapidly changing needs and emergencies. There are very few predefined shared values in the process of creating and sustaining a liminal commons, and they are often narrowed down to the belief that all participants are equal and have equal rights of participation in decision making; this often leads to the adoption of horizontal structures of organization. (p.37)

The institutions that are performed during this kind of commoning, which define what is to be shared and how, are also characterized by fluidity. Liminal institutions are not fixed but precarious; they emerge and perish quickly, according to whether they prove functional or not.

They aim at unification rather than exclusion of the diverse potential commoners, and they promote the non- antagonistic co-existence of different perceptions. (p.37)

Liminal commons are not only the outcome of a specific kind of crisis [...]. They are also processes that are formative of new crises at various scales; [...] ―Crisis is contagious‖, as Turner said. (p.37)

Liminal commons cannot only ―transmit crisis to the individuals who incidentally take part in the incipient forms of collective action [...], but it can also affect the surrounding environment by expanding crisis and its transformative potential to places far beyond the traceable periphery of the actual common space. This kind of expansion often follows a rhizomatic pattern (Deleuze & Guattari 1980; Castells 2012). [...] that has no center or periphery, does not begin from or end at a specific point, and often resembles what is called punctuation in biology. Its nodes are either not connected or connected mostly through unforeseen encounters, following a decentralization-recentralization process (Zibechi 2010). The nodes of the rhizome are not stable but appear and disappear within a highly accelerating spiral; multiple nodes can be added to the rhizome without any previous control of whether or not they are compatible among them. (p.37/38)

Liminal commons are transitional forms of commoning, primarily aimed at facilitating transitions. Such processes are often precarious and temporal, but they are indeed capable of creating new realities that were previously unthinkable. Thus, if crisis is what poses the question, liminality can mark the period when tentative, often incomplete and contradictory answers are invented and put into practice. (p.38)

Liminal commons is an analytical category of commons and does not designate a preferable or desirable form. By extension, my aim here is not to totally displace Elinor Ostrom‘s theory or to discredit all other tools for the analysis of other types of commoning experiences; rather, it is to provide a new analytical framework for approaching a particular form of commoning, which until recently was off the radar of the burgeoning literature on the field. My interest is directed towards studying forms of commoning that develop within crisis and emergency, and which can catalyze new transformations in rapidly changing conditions.. (p.38)

In liminal commons, as in all other forms of material-based commoning, space is central. (p. 78)

In contrast to this view, my argument is that social movements can also create transitional forms of commoning—the liminal commons—which enact a generative process of commoning in their wake. These transitional commons that emerge within, through and because of social movements not only disseminate the ideas of the social movements throughout the social fabric but also create a new social fabric as an alternative social infrastructure for production and reproduction, composed of various collective ventures and networks. The final core argument of this chapter is that the expansion of commons through social movements occurs in a rhizomatic way. Rhizomatic is the expansion that takes place simultaneously in different places and times in a non-linear and non-identifiable pattern. (p.84)

Liminal commons are always precarious forms of commoning; they either become passages to more stable commons projects or disappear leaving behind a series of social, biographical, cultural and even political outcomes. This means that what matters most for a liminal commons is not its longevity and endurance but its effectiveness in facilitating transitions, physical and metaphorical, tangible and intangible ones. To this extent, liminal commons challenge the very criteria for successful commoning specified by Elinor Ostrom and her colleagues from the institutional school but also by scholars from different schools of thought who evaluate commons primarily in terms of their capacity to endure. (p.146)

# See also

add related concepts

# Sources

Aggelos Varvarousis 2018: Crisis, Commons & Liminality, Modern rituals of transition in Greece PhD Thesis, ICTA, UAB Supervisors: Giorgos Kallis, Dina Vaiou, Christos Zografosyour