Last night a trans-generational cohort of  women enquired  the politics of cooperation, solidarity  and commoning as a foundation for the production of just, inclusive and resilient cites. The discussion was part of the first panel of the 2014-2015 Stephan Weiss Lecture Series: Cooperative Cities. Each year, the School of Design Strategies at Parsons/The New School hosts this event, subsequently publishing the proceedings and associated conversations in The Journal of Design Strategies. The Cooperative Cities edition has been curated by Gabriela Rendón, co-founder of Cohabitation Strategies, and Miodrag Mitrasinovic, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the New School. A second panel is scheduled for Spring 2015.

Historically, women have constituted a counter-power in communities, a social force supporting collective interest and pursuing solidarity processes. Women have traditionally led the creation of collective forms of living and reproduction for survival within hegemonic systems based on individuality, competition, and division of labor. Thanks to the construction of solidarity economies and other forms of commons building, women across the world have endured the violence and exploitation that systems of power and oppression have imposed on them. For these and many other reasons, woman voices drive the Cooperative Cities lecture series. Participants Fall 2014: Silvia Federici, Ana Rodriguez, Doina Petrescu and Elke Krasny.

Silvia Federici is a philosopher, activist, writer and long-time feminist. Silvia has influenced a wide number of international urban and social movements since the 1970s. In 1972, she was co-founder of the International Feminist Collective, which launched the Wages for Housework (WfH) campaign internationally. She is the author of a number of with many historical precedents, but also as a contemporary response to the “point zero” crisis of neoliberalism. As Silvia states, the idea of the common/s has offered a logical and historical alternative to both State and Private Property, The State and the Market, enabling us to reject the fiction that they are mutually exclusive and exhaustive of our political possibilities. This idea has also serve as a unifying concept prefiguring the cooperative society that the radical Left has attempted to create. Silvia has lectured and taught widely in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the U.S. Silvia is Emerita Professor of Political Philosophy and International Studies at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.

Ana Rodriguez is a researcher and curator. Ana studied Fine Arts and Philosophy at Paris University, in la Sorbonne, in France. She was the sub secretary of the Ministry of Culture in Ecuador, and the director of the City Museums Foundation from year 2000 to year 2012, in Quito Ecuador. During this time Ana turned dozens of city museums into community and learning spaces. She is the founder of “Ceroinspiracion”, an independent residence and exhibition space for the production of research of artistic projects, also in Quito. Ana has been involved in action-research projects especially with street youth organizations, women, disfranchised citizens and border communities. She currently works in the Research Center of Public Policy and Territory at the Latin American Faculty of Social Science, Ecuador. Ana has lectured widely in Europe, South and North America.

Doina Petrescu is a Professor of Architecture and Design Activism at the University of Sheffield, and also a Visiting Professor in Urban Planning and Design at Harvard University. She co-founded l’atelier d’architecture autogérée (Studio for Self-managed Architecture) with Constantin Petcou in 2001. AAA acts as a platform for collaborative research and action on the city and operates as a collaborative network that forms around each project. Their projects are experiments in the temporary reuse of vacant urban spaces through the setting up of an enabling infrastructure, designed to be appropriated and self-managed over time by local residents, a process through which AAA thus acts as curators and enablers. Doina’s research focuses on gender and space in contemporary society, participation in architecture, and on culture & resilience. Her approach broadens the scope of conventional architectural discourse by bringing cultural, social, and political issues to inform the design and thinking processes in architecture. Her research methodology combines approaches from architectural theory and design, contemporary arts, social sciences, political philosophy, and feminist theory. Doina is the editor of the newly published volume The Social (Re)Production of Architecture (2015), Altering Practices: Feminist Politics and Poetics of Space (2007) and co-editor of Architecture and Participation (2005), Urban Act (2007), Agency: Working with Uncertain Architectures (2009), and Trans-Local-Act: Cultural Practices Within and Across (2010).

Elke Krasny is a curator, cultural theorist, a writer, and a Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria. This year, she is also a City of Vienna Visiting Professor at the Vienna University of Technology. Previosuly, Elke held numerous positions at universities and cultural institutions across the world. Her recent curatorial works include Mapping the Everyday. Neighborhood Claims for the Future and Hands-On Urbanism 1850-2012. The Right to Green which was included in the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale. She co-edited the 2013 volume Women’s Museum. Curatorial Politics in Feminism, Education, History, and Art. Her theoretical and curatorial work is firmly rooted in socially engaged art and spatial practices, urban epistemology, post-colonial theory, and feminist historiography. In her conceptually driven and research-based curatorial practice she works along the intersections of feminism, art, architecture, education, landscape, spatial politics, and urbanism. She aims to contribute to innovation and debate in these fields through forging experimental post-disciplinary alliances between research, teaching, curating, and writing. The case in point is her 2012 exhibition Hands-on Urbanism 1850-2012. The Right to Green that addressed issues of self-organization and spatial justice, and investigated how gardening and informal settling act as dynamic agents of urban change. The exhibition attempts to write an alternative urban history by presenting historical and contemporary case studies of cooperative urban movements and investigates how small-scale cooperative projects have often led to major urban transformations.

Cooperative Cities