Beyond wishful thinking: a FPE perspective on commoning, care, and the promise of co-housing

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Co-housing has re-emerged in affluent cities as a model of dwelling that aims to reduce ecological impact and increase social welfare. Although it is the subject of growing academic interest, there are significant gaps in knowledge and a tendency toward wishful thinking about its promise that is not supported by evidence. We examine co-housing from a feminist political ecology perspective with the aim of contributing to an improved research agenda, not just on co-housing but commoning more widely. Drawing on qualitative fieldwork conducted at co-housing projects in the Netherlands and the UK, we cast new light on how to assess the impact of sharing practices at the level of the collectivized household. Our findings support the claim that commons thinking is not really commons if it takes the work of social reproduction (caring labour) for granted or overlooks differences between people along the lines of gender, class, race/ethnicity, age and ability. We argue that greater attention to difference entails a new set of questions and criteria, and that these are necessary for assessing the extent to which co-housing projects enable the ‘inclusive commoning’ that their proponents rather wishfully envisage.

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Original languageEnglish
Article number
Pages (from-to)62-83
JournalInternational Journal of the Commons
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2019

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