Drawing on interviews with 51 anti-authoritarian organizers to investigates what it means to struggle for “the commons” within a settler colonial context, Unsettling the Commons (ARP Books) interrogates a very important debate that took place within Occupy camps and is taking place in a multitude of movements in North America around what it means to claim “the commons” on stolen land. Travelling back in history to show the ways in which radical left movements have often either erased or come into clear conflict with Indigenous practices of sovereignty and self-determination—all in the name of the “struggle for the commons”, the book argues that there are multiple commons or conceptualizations of how land, relationships, and resources are shared, produced, consumed, and distributed in any given society. As opposed to the liberal politics of recognition, a political practice of unsettling and a recognition of the incommensurability of political goals that claim access to space/territory on stolen land is put forward as a more desirable way forward.
Community organizer Fortier's debut takes an unflinchingly honest look at North American activists and asks how they can situate their social justice struggles in a context that honors and respects Indigenous peoples' views on land rights and decolonization. Challenged by a central contradiction of the global Occupy movement whose participants often reclaimed public space without acknowledging the original occupants of those territories Fortier interviewed more than 50 scholars and street-level activists linked with the anti-authoritarian movement's ongoing tactical and strategic debates. Whether these activists agitate against gentrification of low-income neighborhoods, police brutality, economic inequality, or sexism and anti-queer bigotry, they share theoretical, often academic, insights on how best to engage in their work without ignoring or assimilating Indigenous voices. Scholars and activists will derive value from the discussion, but the book could have benefited from more of Fortier's own distinctive voice and personal insights (featured most prominently in an excellent preface), as well as further examples of how all these theoretical discussions have been put into practice. Despite the book's narrow focus and reliance on jargon, the ideas raised here have the potential to contribute significantly to ongoing discussions about reconciliation between colonizers and First Peoples.