Dr. Kathryn Milun

Photo of Kathryn Milun
Professional Title
Associate Professor of Anthropology & Director, Center for Social Research

Research, Publications, Teaching

Dr. Milun is a community-engaged scholar, writer, energy democracy advocate and community solar activist whose work has long been rooted in the emerging field of investigation into governance models for common property/ “commons”--gifts of nature (air, water, wildlife, food) and community that are peer-governed for the common good with tools of public trust and community trust law. She founded and directs the Solar Commons Research Project which innovates and prototypes community trust ownership of solar energy as a community economy tool. As a research social scientist based in the Anthropology Program at the University of Minnesota Duluth, she teaches courses on the anthropology of energy, commons design, the anthropology of law and social theory. Dr. Milun works with faculty and students engaged in research on social-ecological justice and community economies. She is a former fellow of the Tomales Bay Institute & On the Commons which focus on commons strategy-building. Currently, she is a fellow at the Minnesota Design Center  and the Institute on the Environment (UMTC); she is also an Affiliated Faculty member of the University of Minnesota Law School. As the Director of UMD’s Center for Social Research, Dr. Milun recently received a three-year sponsored research grant to work with universities and communities throughout the Lake Superior watershed using a “living lab” methodology to co-create with community partners solutions for place-based social-ecological problems. For her work on the Solar Commons project, Milun has been honored with a US Green Building Council Legacy Project Award. 

Dr. Milun’s most recent publication is forthcoming from the Vermont Law Review in 2022: “Bringing New Light to One of The Oldest Forms Of Property Ownership: An Innovative Solution for Benefiting Underprivileged and Under-served Communities Using the Solar Commons Community Trust Model”Dr. Milun has published two academic books: Pathologies of Modern Space (2006 Routledge)--a cultural history of the modern urban commons; and The Political Uncommons: The Cross-Cultural Logic of the Global Commons (2011 Routledge; 2018 paperback)--a study of the global commons in international law and the legal challenges presented by indigenous communities. Her current book manuscript on the Solar Commons Project is for a general audience. Dr. Milun collaborates with public artists to create more accessible ways of presenting complex legal and technical issues involving renewable energy, common property ownership, climate change mitigation, social equity, community economies and community empowerment. Students from Dr. Milun’s Energy, Culture, Society course (Anth3300) run the annual Duluth Power Dialog, a public forum that takes students’ research on local energy democracy issues to create a series of questions for local government officials and energy transformation agents to discuss in downtown Duluth every spring.