Development and Urbanization
The notion of the commons has witnessed a recent resurrection as a more appropriate, homegrown alternative to the idea of the public in rationalising contestations over open spaces in cities of the global South. And yet, it takes little empirical research to show that it is not so easy to replace one with the other. Based on ethnographic research in the Indian city of Chennai, this paper focusses on the impossibilty of abandoning the public and embracing unilaterally the idea of the commons as both are much too embedded in any effort at offering a conceptual vocabulary for open spaces and their drastically shrinking prospects. At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that the idea of the public and the notion of the commons are in tandem shaped by the larger concern of a more pertinent aspect - the crowd, providing new meanings to the way open spaces are engaged in Indian cities. As this presentation will argue, unless we address the ideational value of the crowd, neither the public nor any unfolding alternative such as the commons will prove adequate in suitably framing our approach to our understanding of open spaces.