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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - IRI THESys

Associative Environmentality

Dr. Monica Vasile and Dr. Liviu Măntescu were visiting researchers at IRI THESys. Their joint research project 'Associative Environmentality' is based at the Institute of Sociology at the Romanian Academy and runs from October 2015 to September 2017.


In a village of forest dwellers and timber traders in the Carpathian Mountains (photo: Monica Vasile)

This research project is set at the interplay of three analytical categories: governance, environment and identity, and asks the following question: how do environmental ethics play a part within local associative governance of land? We place emphasis on the process of commoning, politics of affect, and concepts of commitment, justification and accountability. We examine the development and articulation of environmental ethics, by looking at specific contexts of land governance where different, often conflicting, ethics meet and change.

To address these issues, this project will investigate village commons across the Carpathian Mountains in Romania using a diachronic perspective.

Village commons, obşti (Moldova and Walachia Regions) and compossesorates (Transylvania) were legally registered at the beginning of the 20th century and several were subject of sociological research starting with 1927. Seized as “state national assets”, commons dissolved under the communist regime, and only officially regained full recognition in year 2000. Currently, the development processes associated with local and global capitalisms, as well as with new European Union policies, give rise to new socio-ecologies.

First, the project aims to map the newly established village commons across the Romanian Carpathians and the transformations engendered by the changing property regime. Scattered data shows that about 14% of forested land in Romania is owned by villages and not individual owners. All over the Carpathians there are around 1100 commons. How big are they, what do they own, what is their material/resource base? What kind of property relations and access rights do they endorse? What are their economic activities? How do they contribute to local livelihoods? How do people participate in the de jure collective management? A quantitative survey will bring all this information together in a “commons matrix”.

Second, after a careful selection, the project aims at an in-depth investigation of several representative cases of village commons. The project will examine fine-grained transformative processes along long-term human-forest histories. Through ethnographic methods, it will trace the political ecology of woodlands within the new postsocialist tenurial regime and new, emerging, international markets and ecological paradigms alongside local environmental narratives. The richness of historical data available will play a particular role in this selection, as well as the nature of conflicts, both past and ongoing, and the geographical location.

Third, the gathered data will also be correlated using visual mapping. A comparative analysis -historical, geographical, economic, social and environmental - will be presented as an in-depth visualization of the dynamics of the commons phenomena.

Theoretically, the project’s aim is to contribute to debates on action and environmentalism. The focus is on understanding trust and collective agency within commons, as different from conventional theoretical ideas that tend to focus on the unidirectional relationships between governance and the individual.

From an applied perspective, this research is very timely in the Romanian context, and will make a significant contribution to current political and academic debates surrounding legal initiatives of making the commons available on the free land market. It will also be of relevance in the broader European context, especially in regards to the intended mapping of ecosystem services in all EU countries by 2017.

The project is based at the Institute of Sociology at the Romanian Academy and supported by a grant of the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research and Innovation CNCS-UEFISCDI.

Photo:Arryn Snowball


Dr. Monica Vasile, Research Group Leader
Phone: +49-(030)-2093-66326
Email: vasilemo@cms.hu-berlin.de

Photo:Josephine Lauterbach



Dr. Liviu Măntescu, Research Associate
Phone: +49-(030)-2093-66328
Email: liviu.mantescu@hu-berlin.de