Reclaiming Common Wealth: Towards a Law and Political Economy of Land Commons

Photo by Ian Teh, Undercurrents Read more

2023/24 Call for Fellows
2023/24 Call for Fellows

Reclaiming Common Wealth: Towards a Law and Political Economy of Land Commons


What are pathways, processes and institutional designs for the generation and governance of land commons?


Institutional investments in land trigger discontents all over the world. In cities affordable housing becomes scarce and urgent ecological retrofits are put on hold; large-scale purchases of agricultural land lead to expulsions of rural populations and monocultures that harm ecologies and food sovereignty.

Critique of corporate ownership, large-scale investments in land and the assetization of infrastructures for the satisfaction of basic needs not only mobilize civil society and prompt protest. Initiatives for deprivatization and reclaiming land as common wealth also open up pathways for transformation. They point towards the social and ecological possibilities entailed in a reorganization of the ownership and administration of land. At the same time, attempts at deprivatization reveal the extent to which the lack of transparency of ownership structures and the assetization of land are products of legal design and enjoy far-reaching legal protection.

The proposed project seeks to address both, real utopias of common ownership as well as obstacles to their realization. Inquiry into pathways of transforming the current law and political economy of land shall be conducted within the theoretical frameworks established by research on commons and commoning. The project pursues three concrete objectives:

First, the project seeks to contribute to data commons concerning structures of property and ownership in land.

Second, the project critically assesses theories and concepts of property and value as well as methods of valuing land and real estate in order to make proposals for a revaluation of land as a commons.

Third, the project establishes a repository of the law and institutional design of (land) commons with a particular focus on Commons Public Partnerships.


Isabel Feichtner
Isabel is Professor of Public Law and International Economic Law at the University of Würzburg. Her research interests cover the distributive effects of law, the democratization of society, and the law of the commons and commoning. She explores how institutional experiments, e.g. the redesign of money or Commons Public Partnerships, can support social-ecological transformation through democratization and commoning.

Read more

On the basis of humanistic and social-scientific reflection on human becoming in the 21st century, THE NEW INSTITUTE develops concrete visions of future socio-economic and political realities. We gather thinkers and practitioners with interdisciplinary and intercultural backgrounds in academia, politics, business, media, the arts, and technology around projects that effect positive social change.


Scholars from the humanities and social sciences or practitioners in politics, business, art, media, or journalism with a commitment to the mission of THE NEW INSTITUTE, expertise in a field related to this project, and interest in collaborating across our programs. Individuals with expertise in commons, qualitative and quantitative research, rural and urban geography, geoinformation systems, law, financialization and theories of value and property are especially encouraged to apply.


Actively participate in the collaborative fellow work concerning the project.



During our selection process, finalists are expected to attend a selection workshop at our premises in Hamburg. Travel costs are covered. The workshop is essential to form a coherent fellow group. Please only apply if you can attend the workshop which will take place on May 25, 2023.


Please send your application as a single pdf to

  • Letter of motivation (3 pages max), including statement of relevant fit to the call;
  • CV (please include in the header: current address, including time zone, current affiliation, last university or higher education degree including the institution from which you received the degree, nationality, gender, cell phone number, and indicate for which terms you are applying.)

For further information (including what we offer), click here and direct any questions to


Ian Teh is an award winning documentary photographer motivated by environmental and social issues. In an era of continuous urbanisation and development, his work explores the underlying dreams and desires of societies and the individual, and the sacrifices often made to realise them. In the age of the selfie, his panoramic series, Traces: Landscapes in Transition on the Yellow River, revisits the classical monumental landscape and sounds an alarm of terrible beauty, heralding the advancing threat we pose to our planet.
Teh’s work has been published internationally in magazines such as National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg Businessweek and Granta. Since 2013, he has mentored at Obscura Festival of Photography, Malaysia’s foremost photo festival, and from 2014 provided his time pro-bono at Cambodia’s Angkor Photo Festival. Teh is a member of the British agency, Panos Pictures.
He currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

| stay informed | stay connected


We are in this together – and our newsletter is the best way to connect and be inspired. Competent, constructive, creative. A wealth of insight and guidance in a world in turmoil.


We use cookies to measure how often our site is visited and how it is used. You can withdraw your consent at any time with effect for the future. For further information, please refer to our privacy policy.