The Commons Project

The Commons Project


Independent Turkey is searching for writers for a series on social movements and the commons as part of our forthcoming Commons Project.

The notion of the commons refers not only to the natural resources we share, the land, water or air, but also intangible resources such as languages, knowledge, social and cultural practices. The commons is the collection of these socio-cultural resources and practices meant to be shared and preserved by all human kind.

Global forces such as globalization, neo-liberalism and climate change, inextricable as they are, have profoundly transformed our societies and the ways in which we perceive notions of community and cooperation. In other words, how we live collectively in our world. As we blindly hurtle towards the social and environmental dystopia depicted in the likes of Margaret Atwoods’ The Year of the Flood, fear is seemingly beating optimism the world over.  With resources enclosed, subsumed and exploited for corporate interests, we are in the midst of a demise of the commons. And yet a plethora of social movements have arisen to meet these challenges.

We call for essays that deal with these challenges, and the movements emerging from them. From Gezi to North Cyprus’ water privatization and the ‘Reddediyoruz’ platform, to the Keep Hasankeyf Alive citizen’s movement, Artvin and Rize, socio-environmental activists and their opponents – both the state and the private institutions behind it – are locked in a fatalistic battle of attrition. What these movements have in ‘common’ is that they call for a reclamation of ideals like cooperation and inclusion, repossession of common resources and rights, and the restoration of sustainable living.

Global solidarity is often key to the success of such movements. This is a cause that transcends nationality and the borders that divide us. Struggling against the eradication of people’s rights and freedoms, these resistance movements from across the globe reinstate the significance of crucial social practices such as cohabitation and care for our commons.

This essay series will show how these local and national struggles against social inequality are some of the most significant and positive shifts the world is undergoing today.


Topic proposals related to any/ all of the following issues will be considered. We welcome applications from across the globe but are primarily focused on Turkey, the Middle East and Europe. Apply  by August 30th to Please send the full essay (around 2,000 words) and refer to the ‘Write for Us’ section for guidance on formatting and ethics.


Topic areas include but are not limited to:

Egalitarian dreams

  • What would an alternative to the current neo-liberal system look like where ecology, politics, economics and society is constantly circumscribed and/or exploited for the interests of the hegemonic powers? How does resistance to such a system transpire and how does the idea of the commons inform resistance strategies that seek to restore social equality and solidarity?

Movement to movement

  • Traditional civil society actors such as trade unions have been systematically destroyed in recent years by punitive labor laws. Yet some have been able to survive by employing new tactics of resistance and forming solidarity networks with local cooperatives and utilizing the commons in terms of space and knowledge. How have these relationships and popular resistance movements played out in the factories and through relations of production? In short, how can such thinking inform system change in the face of rampant violence and oppression?


  • Examining informal networks of activists and locals who use direct action to challenge top down social or environmental change. How have decentralized social movements and highly localized community activism challenged the institutionalized strategies of traditional civil society actors. In that, and through occupation, resistance and mobilization, how do they challenge the status quo.

Nature’s commons

  • Each social movement strives for some sort of reconnection of people with their socio-cultural and/or ecological surroundings. Seeking to understand nature and landscape as spaces in which people cohabitate and foster social and cultural relations, how is the exploitation, privatization and commodification of these spaces by hegemonic forces reflected onto new forms of ‘commoning’? What are the ways in which communities tackle the ‘uncommoning’ of their natural surroundings?

On memory and forgetting

  • As aforementioned, the commons are not only our natural resources, but our knowledge and society. Governments and private corporations are deeply involved in the policing and commodification of that knowledge. From the lack of media coverage on Occupy, to the banning of books and imprisonment of journalists, the process of organized forgetting is an indispensable aspect of the state-society struggle over the commons. Sprung to life from the re-written history books of Milan Kundera’s Czechoslovakia to the overnight city-wide graffiti cleansing employed during the Gezi Park protests, how do these battles over history, memory and culture play out in literature and journalism, censorship and activism.


  • The public sphere and the commons is increasingly moving from the squares and walls of our cities to the abstract forums and walls of virtual spaces. Yet the free, cross border commons offered by this liberated space in the early 2000s is now being subject to the same commodification and policing as the real commons. Hacktivists have been engaged in a spiralling battle with the state to avert, negotiate and transgress these newly enforced virtual boundaries and privatized spaces. In contrast to this, freedom of access and the philosophy of the ‘commons’ is increasingly posing a threat not just to the privacy of the state, but to the individual. What are the technologies and strategies developed by hacktivists, whistle-blowers and leaktivists? How do they at once embody, and pose a threat to the commons?