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Intriguing Human-Waste Commons: Praxis of Anticipation in Urban Agroecological Transitions

Published in: Design Commons: Practices, Processes and Crossovers, Gerhard Bruyns and Stavros Kousoulas (eds.)

Springer Design Research Foundations, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-95057-6_9. 18 May, 2022.

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In recent years, citizen designers have been working with urban communities on the ecological reuse of human waste. In this commoning effort, practitioners reclaim body-expelled resources for exploring the metabolically enabled household as a networked site of radical, co-productive transitions that harnesses nutrients and boosts local value chains. The commoning of human excrement is understood in the context of agroecological urbanization that seeks to empower urban dwellers to become contributing actors in the food-energy nexus by making the city more food-enabled for storing and proliferating feeds, fertilizer, and food. By introducing three cases of human-waste commons in Brussels, Hong Kong, and Berlin, this study approaches commoning design as a process grounded in the praxis of anticipation. In this way of life, consistent with the anticipatory nature of living systems, the transformative potential in people, their waste, and social arrangements stem from the dynamic continuum of mutual purpose, trust, and vigilance. Collective desire, resolutions, and statuses are a result of direct involvement, context, and relationships. The three examples show how citizen designers draw energy from anticipating regenerative, life-giving value chains around human waste that give momentum to overcome the given thresholds with perseverance and resourcefulness.

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Keywords: Value chain design, ecological sanitation, food pedagogies, collectivized resourcefulness, metabolizing infrastructure.

Acknowledgements:: This publication was made possible with support from Timothy Jachna and Nathan Felde.