Commons and Commodities: Knowledge, Natural Resources and the Construction of Property

Landscape behind a fance

Commons and Commodities explores how different kinds of common resources, such as information, culture, genes and land, are enclosed and commodified as private property, and how this affects people who use and manage those commons. 

It addresses conflicts over whether to define certain resources as either common or private. The debates over digital piracy is one such area where copyright holders see file sharing as theft while pirates motivate it as an act of communication where culture and information are freely shared. Conflicts over mining projects on indigenous land is another example where mining companies exercise a legal right to extract, propertize and commodify natural resources that may be located in areas that have traditionally been used by indigenous people, and have strong social and cultural value for them. 

The project consists of three separate but intertwined studies. The first focuses on the enclosure of the Information Commons through the expansion of intellectual property rights. The second concerns Biopiracy: how companies patent traditional knowledge, for instance concerning the medical use of herbs and plants, which has previously been commonly used within indigenous groups. The third concerns Environmental Commons: how natural resources, generally perceived as common land, are appropriated by corporations. It focuses on local cases where mining projects on indigenous land in Scandinavia and Australia have provoked resistance from local people.

The project is conducted by Martin Fredriksson and Johanna Dahlin and runs between 2015 and 2018. It is supported by the Swedish Research Council and the Marie Skldowska Curie Actions under Grant E0633901 and has partly been conducted at the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University and at the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam.

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