Commons are popping up everywhere—internet sites, federal lands, seed banks, land trusts, professional platforms, neighborhood networks—and everyone wants to be part of one. But what makes commons endure over time? Scholar and author Dana Nelson urges us to reject romantic framings of the commons, while also studying them self-critically, as the first step toward redemption.
Dana D. Nelson is Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English and American Studies at Vanderbilt University, where she is currently Chair of the English Department. Her intellectual interests are wide-ranging, moving from the history and literature of the British colonies all the way through our contemporary moment. A founding co-editor of J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, she has written widely on literature, history, politics and culture, and is a frequent guest expert on public radio and television shows. Her most recent book is Commons Democracy: Reading the Politics of Participation in the Early United States. Previous books include Bad for Democracy: How the Presidency Undermines the Power of the People and National Manhood: Capitalist Citizenship and the Imagined Fraternity of White Men.