Focusing on the meaning of public domain in a city Karin researches the role and the implications of active hands-on citizens within the cooperative shaping of our urban living environments.
In the PhD research entitled Longing for Autonomy: New Meanings of Ownership, Property, and Citizenship, she explores the values which citizen initiatives uphold when re-purposing derelict buildings for the common good: "We all know the community worker and the activist but what does the citizen professional (CP) stand for? What are her values? Why does she wish to appropriate and re-use derelict buildings and work towards models of shared ownership? In a tightening contemporary housing market in Northern European Welfare states, civic actors no longer squat vacant premises but negotiate the ways in which they are used in collaboration with governmental and private stakeholders. These citizens who are active in re-purposing vacant housing stock start off with a voluntary engagement – a commitment that is directed towards the common good. Through ethnographically inspired fieldwork in Amsterdam, Berlin and Vienna, the research explores those notions of ownership, citizenship and autonomy that are manifest in the practices of these communal projects. To engage with these citizens, Karin has coined citizen professionals as a sensitizing concept, asking: What does ownership mean to CPs? How can they stay autonomous? And, how are the longing for autonomy and place interrelated? By elucidating CPs as agents of our times, the research explores whether new forms of citizenship are developed – citizenship that appears to be based on notions of ownership as a precondition for being autonomous."