Precarity talk, Austerity talk, and Commons talk, in other words, try to occupy a different
formalism, or patterning on the move, or infrastructure: that’s what they’re for. In contrast,
the commons projects of fugitive utopian performance associated with Jose´ Mun˜oz and Fred
Moten extend this problematic not from the position of universal singularity, citizenship,
common sense, or a like injury within a scene of violence, but toward a temporally different
understanding of how to convert a violently unequal historical inheritance and experience to
a space where history and experience already recombine beyond consensus realism.
For Moten and Harney (2013) the undercommons, where all condemned to fugitive
legitimacy live and move, is prophetic, allowing the mind to be two places at one time, in
the space of history and critique and in the scene of black study that makes movement in the
fold of the known world, but beyond it. For Mun˜oz the brown commons is a space where
fugitives already meet to receive each other on another a plane thus the centrality of a
performative esthetics to his thought. The brown commons is a resource for making folds
of relation in the scene of encounter that makes other things happen, and in that otherness,
the means for a new attunement, a new history. It’s a name for critical queer of color and
punk negativity, about turning getting negated into a willful act that also moves the future
around. Munoz writes: ‘‘I contend that the clinamen, or the swerve at the heart of the
encounter, describes the social choreography of a potentially insurrectionist mode of being
in the world’’ (2013: 97). He leans on Jean-Luc Nancy’s image of the touch that preserves the
specificity of the Other in the register of a common form that’s apprehensible but not
representable. The commons concept here too is reparative against the world’s destruction
of the life whose labor sustains it while negating the exploited and negated humans who
remain who deserve a break, a swerve, and a future that can only be found in the courage
to be more interested in than threatened by the commonality of difference.
But what this essay seeks is another side of the spatal productivity of the swerve and the
induction of fugitive time through a form of study that uses critique to intensify one’s
attachment to the world felt but yet unestablished. That is, it sees what’s best in the
commons concept in its power to retrain affective practical being, and in particular in its
power to dishabituate through unlearning the overskilled sensorium that is so quick to adapt
to damaged life with a straight, and not a queer, face.
In other words, in contrast to the universalizing yet concrete affective abstraction of the
sensus communis, this political version of the common requires a transformed understanding
of the relation between any version of the sensus communis and what embodied human
action might do to acknowledge, advance, and represent sociality as something other than
a rage for likeness. The commons is an action concept that acknowledges a broken world
and the survival ethics of a transformational infrastructure. This involves using the spaces of
alterity within ambivalence.
Lauren Berlant, The commons: Infrastructures for troubling times. Environment and Planning D: Society and
Space 2016, Vol. 34(3) 393–419.