Peter Linebaugh at the Reina Sofia

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Last Monday Daniela and I went to a lecture held at the Reina Sofia. Peter Linebaugh, an American, came to speak about the uses and protection of the Common throughout history. Professor Linebaugh is like a steam engine, he starts out slowly hinting at ideas and picks up speed, intensity and energy as he continues. By the end you could feel the passion pouring out of him as he spoke. 

The talk focused on the theme of the encroachment of the Common and how this directly correlated the the establishment of the modern prison. It was the invasion by a few humans into the public spaces creating private property, paralleled in the city by the “rise” of delinquent humans who were placed into highly structured prison cells. One such example can be found in the Beatles song “Strawberry Fields Forever”. A nostalgic song that refers to the patch of strawberries grown in what was once common property, converted into private, making it  illegal for the young boys to pick strawberries. Young Lennon remarks that his aunt warned him not to pick any of the strawberries for the penalty was hanging. This clash with capital punishment and the rise of private property was the central theme of Linebaugh’s talk.    For an official summary of his talk here is what the Reina Sofia said: http://www.museoreinasofia.es/en/activities/peter-linebaugh-city-and-commons-story-our-time

One of the most interesting parts of the talk was the fact that he spoke in English. Which meant, that almost all of the audience had headsets to hear Marta translate his message into Spanish. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to translate that quickly, but for the most part it seemed the audience knew what was going on. At times he broke into song such as the Jubilee, which was harder to translate. This only meant we heard it twice. But it makes me appreciate learning to speak Spanish, even though I am no where near perfect, there are now so many places that I will be able to speak and interact with the public in their own language, instead of just relying upon my English skills. 

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