March 25, 2022, 9 am - 6 pm


Commoning is future-making. In this conference, we explore how futures are opened and foreclosed through new processes of enclosure and the creation of new commons. Classical studies of the commons analyzed its historical forms, documenting forms of dispossession or highlighting the endurance of collective institutions. Today, the commons is more often understood as an aspiration—a utopian ideal and the practices necessary to reach it. From Moten and Harney to J. K. Gibson-Graham, scholars have envisioned commoning as a transformational process of world-making. This event aims to accelerate this conversation. We approach the commons not as a set of material resources or institutions to be managed, but as a set of practices with the potential to generate multiple futures. We consider how these practices aim to reinvent ways of living in urban and rural spaces and to reorder racialized, gendered, and minoritized social positionings. 

With a focus on future-oriented practices of commoning and resisting enclosure, we ask: What kinds of opportunities and limits appear as we reimagine and enact new worlds, environments, communities, and livelihoods, in common? We delve into this question in two panels. First, we consider what contemporary forms of enclosure, dispossession, and displacement tell us about the shapes that commoning may (or may not) take? How do past and present enclosures condition the opportunities for future commons and what processes undermine them?  Second, we examine the possibilities and practices of the commons, asking, what kinds of futures are made possible through actually existing and grounded practices of commoning? How do these futures in action reshape, affirm, or challenge our conceptions of the commons? By centering the commons as future and commoning as a world-making practice, we aim to expand our conceptual frameworks for imagining the multiple ways of living that could lie ahead.

Organized by Alize Arican and Matthew Libassi, CCA Postdoctoral Associates.

Keynote speaker: Fred Moten

Irresolution and Social Gravity

The great composer and theorist George Russell defines music as “cosmic gravity manifesting in the realm of sound.” This talk connects Russell’s sonic gravity field to a formulation W. E. B. Du Bois makes regarding “the incalculable rhythm” of human action. Russell’s music sounds (like) the presencing of futurity. It enacts, in common study, the gravitational force of the unresolved. Russell shows us, on the one hand, how to stay there, and, on the other hand, how to get here from here, as the metaphysical foundations of politics gives way to and in the physics of sociality.

Fred Moten is Professor in the Department of Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts. He holds an A.B. from Harvard and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Moten teaches courses and conducts research in black studies, performance studies, poetics and critical theory. He is author of In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota Press, 2003); Hughson’s Tavern (Leon Works, 2009); B. Jenkins (Duke University Press, 2010); The Feel Trio (Letter Machine Editions, 2014), The Little Edges (Wesleyan University Press, 2015), The Service Porch (Letter Machine Editions, 2016), a three-volume collection of essays whose general title is consent not to be a single being (Duke University Press, 2017, 2018) and All that Beauty (Letter Machine Editions, 2019). Moten is also co-author, with Stefano Harney, of The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (Minor Compositions/Autonomedia, 2013) and A Poetics of the Undercommons (Sputnik and Fizzle, 2016) and, with Wu Tsang, of Who touched me? (If I Can’t Dance, I Don't Want to be Part of Your Revolution, 2016). Moten has served on the editorial boards of Callaloo, Discourse, American Quarterly and Social Text; as a member of the Critical Theory Institute at the University of California, Irvine; on the board of directors of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, City University of New York; and on the advisory board of Issues in Critical Investigation, Vanderbilt University.

Part of the 2021-2022 Annual Seminar: The Commons


Commoning the Future
Conference Schedule

10:00-10:30: Welcoming Remarks

Hageman Hall, New Brunswick Theological Seminary

10:30-12:30 Session 1
New Enclosures - Panel

Hageman Hall, New Brunswick Theological Seminary


  • Julie Klinger (Assistant Professor in Geography and Spatial Sciences, University of Delaware)
  • Andrea Marston (Assistant Professor of Geography, Rutgers University)
  • heath pearson (Assistant Professor in Anthropology, Georgetown University)

2:00-4:00 Session 2
New Commons - Roundtable

Hageman Hall, New Brunswick Theological Seminary


  • Joseph Albernaz (Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University)
  • Jasmine Syedullah (Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, Vassar College)
  • Miriam Ticktin (Associate Professor of Anthropology, CUNY)

4:30-6:00: Keynote
Speaker: Fred Moten

Room 2125, Academic Building West, Rutgers University