Micro-utopia in numbers: proportional relations in urban and forest commons
Oana Mateescu (University of Bergen)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores mathematics as a form of artful accomplishment that sustains and repairs the tensions between divisibility and indivisibility in the context of urban and forest commons in contemporary Romania.
Paper long abstract:
Just as many other social orders, commons in forests (in this case, those of Vrancea, Romania) and urban apartment buildings (Bucharest) are beset by problems of distribution, stimulating constant conversions and ratios between the one and the many, quantity and quality, part and whole. This paper explores mathematics as a form of artful accomplishment that sustains and repairs the tensions between divisibility and indivisibility in the context of urban and forest commons. It does so by inquiring into the role of a specific calculation device: the performance of proportional relations, either by the explicit application of the familiar rule of three or by implicit commensuration in the adjustment of abstract "quotas." I argue that what makes the intelligibility of order in urban and forest commons is the generative potential of numbers and the versatility of techniques of calculation (rather than simply money as medium and unit of measure). In other words, such micro-utopias of distributive justice thrive on collaborative and creative accounting. Utopia and number are bound up together in a proportional imagination that is constitutive of commons and their social and political ecology.
Micro-utopias: exploring connections in anthropology, relationality and creativity