Guest Organizers/Editors: Miodrag Mitrasinovic and Gabriela Rendón

Wednesday, April 29th
5:30 to 9:00pm
63 5th Avenue, Room U L104 (Lower Level)
The New School University Center

5:30-6:00 pm Welcome and Introduction
6:00-6:30 pm Jessica Gordon Nemhard
6:30-7:00 pm Jeanne van Heeswijk
7:00-7:15 pm Recess
7:15-7:45 pm Maliha Safri
7:45-9:00 pm Discussion

The last decades have seen an upsurge of urban activist practices propelled by the renewed commitment to “the right to the city.” In the face of scarce and inconsistent public financing, as well as predatory and profit-driven economic and urban development, citizen-driven micro urban economies have emerged as vital to sustaining urban communities across the world. The 2014-2015 Stephan Weiss Lecture Series focuses on ways in which urban activists have conceptualized and fostered the co-production of non-hierarchical and cooperative urban economic models. Two public events featuring academics, scholars-practitioners and activists will delve into the roles urban activists, designers and artists are playing as agents of such urban transformations, and the affordances that design and art processes offer to civic, grassroots and community organizations involved in the creation of new organizational forms and practices of urban solidarity.

The first panel brought together leading scholars, activist and practitioners to discuss and examine urban activist practices with the proven capacity to generate alternative cooperative urban systems while also clearly providing directions to overcome emerging economic and political challenges. The conversation was led by a trans-generational cohort of women at the forefront of cooperative and commoning urban practices in New York City, Paris, Vienna and Quito: Silvia Federici, Doina Petrescu, Elke Krasny and Ana Rodriguez, respectively.

The second event brings together leading scholars and active urban practitioners leading the co-production of innovative, transformative and provocative urban practices in communities struggling with access to education, employment, mobility, housing and food. While focusing on specific cases, the discussion will revolve around capacities, processes and methods of conceptualization and implementation of innovative strategies and non-hierarchical approaches to urban cooperative systems and models. The conversation will also address the capacity of designers and artists to act as agents of significant socio-spatial transformations.

Jessica Gordon Nemhard
Collective Courage

In Collective Courage, Jessica Gordon Nembhard chronicles African American cooperatives and their place in the movements for Black civil rights and economic equality. Adding the cooperative movement to Black history results in a retelling of the African American experience, with an increased understanding of African American collective economic agency and grassroots economic organizing. Gordon Nembhard finds that African Americans have benefitted greatly from cooperative ownership and democratic economic participation throughout the nation’s history. Professor Gordon Nembhard will present two cases of women-led African American cooperatives.

Jessica Gordon Nemhard is Associate Professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development in the Department of Africana Studies at the City University of New York. Dr. Gordon Nembhard is a political economist specializing in community economic development, wealth inequality, Black political economy, and community justice. Her research has focused on community- and asset-based economic development and democratic community economics; and racial and economic wealth inequality and wealth accumulation in communities of color. She is the author of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice (2014).

Jeanne Van Heeswijk
Local Making of Housing and Neighborhood Cooperatives

Jeanne Van Heeswijk is the catalyst of a number of long term projects providing tools to local people to “take matters into their own hands” while making real social and physical change in their neighborhoods. Van Heeswijk will discuss the making of the Afrikaanderwijk Co-op, an umbrella organization of business and worker cooperatives based in the South of Rotterdam, as well as the ongoing development of a Homebaked Community Land Trust in Anfied, a neighborhood that has endured demolitions and clearances in recent years. This last project has enabled the collective ownership of the properties and a co-operative business to reopen a Bakery as social enterprise.

Jeanne Van Heeswijk is a visual artist and curator who creates context for interaction in public spaces. Her work focuses on social practice art, and the relationship between space, geography and urban renewal. Her projects distinguish them selves through a strong social involvement. With her work Van Heeswijk stimulates and develops cultural production and creates new public (meeting-) spaces or remodels existing ones. Van Heeswijk’s work on housing and neighborhood cooperatives have politicized and empowered urban communities and transformed their living environments.

Maliha Safri
The Politics of Mapping: Making Alterity in the Economy Visible

Seeing the economy differently as ranging from exploitative to non-exploitative economies, rather than through a lens of uniformity, can open the door to different economic imaginaries and development. A number of practices and forms such as cooperatives, participatory budgeting, not-for-profit credit unions, community supported agriculture, and the like prioritize ethical considerations, equity, democratic process, and community-based development. What happens if we first see and then estimate geographic patterns and economic impact of these solidarity-oriented practices in New York as a whole, rather than as separate niches?

Maliha Safri is Associate Professor in the Economics Department at Drew University, and has taught and published on political economy and migration in many journals and edited book collections. Most recently, she has produced two chapters for the forthcoming collection Making Other Worlds, one of which is entitled “The Politics of Mapping: Performing Diverse Economies in Brazil and Northeastern United States.” She has also been involved with popular education seminars and courses with activists, especially with worker centers, and cooperatives in the NJ and NY metropolitan area.