Study as Commoning: A Call to Order 

Notes from collective writings, e-mail exchanges, internal and public discussions.

(This section has been previously published in Spaces of Commoning: Artistic Research and the Utopia of the Everyday on pp. 84-85).



to formally signal the start of a meeting or function or assembly or court

to demand the undertaking of a particular activity according to the rules


J: Can we finally start to work!


K: Let’s close the laptop


L: It’s Tuesday, June 30.

Shall we make a round of who is present?

—Just for the records—

J: Let’s start …


FM: What I’m supposed to do is call that class to order, presupposing that there is no actual, already existing organisation happening, that there’s no study happening before I got there, that there was no study happening, no planning happening. I’m calling it to order, and then something can happen — then knowledge can be produced. That’s the presumption … Let’s just see what happens if I don’t make that gesture of calling the class to order — just that little moment in which my tone of voice turns and becomes slightly more authoritative so that everyone will know that class has begun.


SH: What’s the one thing you can’t do at a university? And then we would pause and we would say: you can’t study.


MA: You use study for an incredibly broad range of different activities. Where it became very obvious for me was this example of entering a classroom and recognising that there is already studying going on. I am asking you about the decision of working with the broad notion: doesn’t it produce problems that are maybe not necessary?


SH: Study is an incomplete term and is a bit of an improper term — we cannot defend it fully. But at the same time, we are interested in what it gathers by being as elusive as it is. And that is precisely why I can’t answer sufficiently the last part of your question, which is: what else gathers that becomes a problem?


O: Isn’t that what’s already happening within capitalism: that experiences and relationship are being commodified. If even our feelings and our relationships are becoming a commodity, there is no outside any longer to capitalism — it’s a total call to order.


P: It’s a self-fulfilled prophecy … Isn’t that what Gibson-Graham meant by talking capitalism into being? It’s quite violent to normalise all commodity relationships as capitalist commodity relationships.


O: And still we are exposed to the call to order.


P: We need to consider that a call to order is always performed within a certain system of knowledge.


Q: When I read my horoscope it says: ‘I think you should refrain from relying on experts. Be skeptical of professional opinions and highly paid authorities. Folk wisdom and street smarts will provide better guidance than elite consultants. Trust curious amateurs.’


What calls me to order?

What calls my body to order?

What calls my desires to order?

What calls my obedience to order?

What calls my agency to order?

Who calls anyway?

What calls?

To which order?

Why call?



J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q are members of the Spaces of Commoning research group.

FM is Fred Moten. (Stefano Harney, Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study[Wivenhoe, Minor Compositions, 2013], 126).

SH is Stefano Harney in a public conversation with the Spaces of Commoning research group on the occasion of the Vienna Art Week, 2015.

MA is a member of the audience in a public conversation with Stefano Harney and the Spaces of Commoning Research Group on the occasion of the Vienna Art Week, 2015.