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Message posted on 16/06/2022

Call for Papers: Repairing Technology – Fixing Society?

                *Repairing Technology – Fixing Society?*

International conference at the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and 
Digital History (C²DH)

13-14 October 2022

Failures and breakdowns constitute an important element in the 
fundamental relationship between users and technology, and maintenance 
and repair are fundamental practices in everyday life. Stephen Graham 
and Nigel Thrift (2007) highlighted that “repair and maintenance are not 
incidental activities. In many ways, they are the engine room of modern 
economies and societies”. However, we still know very little about the 
actual developments of repair practices in the past and today. In his 
essay “Rethinking repair”, Steven Jackson (2014) therefore called for 
what he coined “broken world thinking”. He argues that we should take 
“erosion, breakdown, and decay, rather than novelty, growth, and 
progress, as our starting points” when we want to study consumption and 
use. Broken world thinking is an exercise in “infrastructural 
inversion”, a reversal of fore- and background to better understand the 
hidden, but fundamental practices of repair that keep our modern 
technical world running. Despite the prevailing master narrative that 
the advent of the consumer society caused a decline in repair, it has 
not become obsolete in modern consumer societies but has remained 
integral to their economic functioning.

Current repair advocates emphasise the sustainability of repair. We are 
interested in historical and contemporary discourses and critical 
reflections about the assumed relationship between maintenance, repair 
and (more) sustainable consumption. By discussing the epistemology, 
sociology, politics, economics, and histories of maintenance and 
repair,we would like to contribute to the growing field of repair 
studies.We are interested in repair in all its forms: from small objects 
to large technical systems, from the global North to the global South. 
The conference is open to various interdisciplinary approaches.

Possible topics include:

• the epistemology, sociology, and politics of repair

• innovation through maintenance and repair practices

• the relationship between repair and sustainability

• the environmental impact of consumer societies

• experimental approaches in studying repair and maintenance

• maintenance and repair practices as forms of resistance

• the social construction of repairability and/or obsolescence

• philosophical, ethnographical, and historical approaches

• the history of manuals and the transfer of repair knowledge in general

• historical, economic, and sociological perspectives on “lifespans” of 
objects

The conference is part of our FNR-funded REPAIR project that 
investigates the maintenance practices of the Luxembourg telephone 
network, continuity and change in local repair opportunities for 
consumer objects, and the role and influence of do-it-yourself cultures 
on repair practices. For more information,visit our REPAIR blog: 
https://repair.uni.lu 

The C²DH will cover the travel and accommodation costs of invited 
participants. Please send abstracts (400-500 words) and a short CV to 
repair@uni.lu; the deadline is 31 July 2022. Confirmation of 
participation by August 15. Invited workshop participants will be 
expected to submit extended abstracts (1,500 words) by 30 September 2022.

Organisers: Stefan Krebs, Rebecca Mossop and Thomas Hoppenheit 
(Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History, C²DH)

-- 

A-Prof. Dr. Stefan Krebs
Head of Public History Unit
Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History
University of Luxembourg
Maison des Sciences Humaines
11, Porte des Sciences
L-4366 Esch-Belval
Email: stefan.krebs@uni.lu
Web: www.c2dh.uni.lu/people/stefan-krebs
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