The Art of “Commoning”: Activating public spaces in an era of xenophobia & neo-capitalism


An Institute for the Study of Social Change seminar presented by visiting UK scholar Dr Heather McLean

Start Date

16th May 2018 4:00pm

End Date

16th May 2018 5:00pm


Harvard 1, Centenary Building, Sandy Bay campus

RSVP / Contact Information

No RSVP required. Enquiries to

Dr Heather McLean Presented by

Dr Heather McLean

University of Glasgow, Scotland

The majority of UK residents have long been known as “commoners”, while the term “commoning” has relatively recently been popularised to describe social practices used in the sharing of public spaces and resources. This presentation focuses on the projects taking place at Scotland’s Kinning Park Complex (KPC), an innovative social enterprise in Glasgow’s South Side that has existed since activists occupied the spaces to prevent closure by the City Council in 1996.

UK-based urban geographer and performance artist Dr Heather McLean looks at the pitfalls and potential of contemporary commoning strategies, efforts to craft alternatives to voracious neoliberal economic development. She explores how KPC re-works mainstream social enterprise planning models to support asylum seekers and refugees, as well as make space for under-represented activist arts organisations, artists of colour, and feminist arts groups. She maintains that KPC’s activities uncover sites of anti-racist solidarity and feminist practices of care in an era of intensifying xenophobia, racism, and borders in the UK and globally.

Dr Heather McLean is an Economic and Social Research Council Future Research Leader in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. Her current research seeks to understand underrepresented artists’ and activists’ efforts to forge cross sectoral solidarities within a paradigm of austerity urbanism. Specifically she is exploring how arts-based social enterprise organisations and artist-run centres support marginalised communities in Glasgow.

Presented by the Institute for the Study of Social Change.