CFP: Maintenance and Repair in STS

Guest Editors
Jérôme Denis, Département Sciences Économiques et Sociales, Telecom ParisTech (
David Pontille, Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation, CNRS (UMR 7185) – Mines ParisTech (
Alessandro Mongili, Padova Science, Technology & Innovation Studies, Dipartimento di Sociologia – Università di Padova (

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Though they rarely have been at the center of analysis, repair and maintenance have been an ongoing concern in Science and Technology Studies for long time. For instance, the role of technicians in the production of scientific knowledge has been highlighted as crucial in the maintenance of places, instruments and experimental materials (Latour and Woolgar 1979; Shapin 1989; Barley and Bechky 1994), and we are aware that sciences draw on caretaking practices that remain largely invisible (Knorr 1999). In other domains, studies stressed out the importance of adaptative operations in the trajectory of certain technologies (Akrich 1993; de Laet and Mol 2000). In contrast with a model of innovation that insists on stabilization and closure, they showed that some technologies are perpetuated and maintained through adjustments and transformations. More recently, the focus on infrastructures led to a new interest into breakdowns, failures and repair. Researches notably showed how the reparation of infrastructures modifies the ecology of visible and invisible, both for the unnoticed objects that become a matter of concern and for the invisible workers who take care of them (Star 1999). Failures, breakdowns and the repair they imply are also crucial situations in the production of sociotechnical inequities (Graham 2010).

Few works, though crucial, insist on repair and maintenance as such. Some of them foreground the richness of practices that contrast with managerial procedures and work planification (Orr 1996; Henke 2000). Others defend a much broader view, making a plea for taking maintenance and repair into consideration, in a world massively turned towards perpetual innovation (Graham and Thrift 2007; Jackson 2014). They show that maintenance and repair are at the center of a growing tension between a model of sustainable development and a model led by repeated breakthrough innovations.

Despite their qualities, these works have not received a lot of attention in STS yet. How STS can address such issues? What STS can bring to the understanding of maintenance and repair and, symmetrically, how these issues can stimulate theoretical developments in STS? How questioning maintenance and repair can help discussing such issues as humans and non-humans relationships (Haraway 1990), materiality (Barad 2003; Ingold 2007) and objects agency (Law and Singleton 2005), matters of concern (Latour 2004)  and matters of care (Puig de la Bellaca 2013), and more generally the ongoing production of social order (Garfinkel 1967; Goffman 1971)?

This special issue of Tecnoscienza aims to raise such questions, in especially considering the following themes:

  • Maintenance and repair as innovation

  • Waste, eWaste, recycling and re-use

  • Repairability, maintainability and inbuilt obsolescence

  • Maintenance and repair practices as forms of resistance

  • Maintenance and repair operations in the daily life of technologies and infrastructures.

  • Maintenance and repair from unexpected actors: users, designers, creative people and lay expert.

  • Maintaining and repairing data and datasets

  • The sociotechnical assemblages of maintenance and repair

  • Maintenance, repair and the division of labour

  • Skills, Know-how and knowledge involved in maintenance and repair work

  • How to study maintenance and repair? Ethnography and other approaches.

This special issue will welcome contributions based on empirical materials from ethnographic studies, human geography inquiries and/or historical accounts of diverse maintenance and repair aspects, as well as theoretical reflections and developments challenging established frameworks.

Deadline for abstract submissions: August 25th, 2014.

Abstracts (in English) with a maximum length of 1000 words should be sent as email attachments to and carbon copied to the guest editors. Notification of acceptance will be communicated by September 5th 2014.

Deadline for full submissions: November 20th, 2014

Submissions (in English with a maximum length of 8000 words, including notes and references) should be sent as .doc, .docx, .rtf documents as email attachments to and carbon copied to the guest editors. The papers will be subject to a double blind peer review process.

We expect to publish the special issue in June 2015.

For further information about the special issue, contact the guest editors at, and


Akrich, M. (1993) Les objets techniques et leurs utilisateurs. De la conception à l’action, in B. Conein, N. Dodier, and L. Thévenot (eds.) Les objets dans l’action. De la maison au laboratoire, Paris, Éditions de l’EHESS.

Barad, K. (2003) Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter, in “Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society”, 28(3), pp. 801–831.

Barley, S.R. and Bechky, B.A. (1994) In the Backrooms of Science, in “Work & Occupations”, 21, pp. 85–126.

De Laet, M. and Mol, A. (2000) The Zimbabwe Bush Pump: Mechanics of a Fluid Technology, in “Social Studies of Science”, 30(2), pp. 225–263.

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Graham, S. (2010) When infrastructures fail, in S. Graham (ed.) Disrupted Cities, New York, Routledge.

Graham, S. and Thrift, N. (2007) Out of Order: Understanding Repair and Maintenance, in “Theory, Culture & Society”, 24(3), pp. 1–25.

Haraway, D.J. (1990) A Manifesto Cyborg: Science, Technology and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s, in L. J. Nicholson (ed.) Feminism/Postmodernism, London, Routledge.

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Ingold, T. (2007) Materials against materiality, in “Archaeological Dialogues”, 14(01), pp. 1–16.

Jackson, S.J. (2014) Rethinking Repair, in T. Gillespie, P. J. Boczkowski, and K. A. Foot (eds.), Media Technologies – Essays on Communication, Materiality and Society, Cambridge, MIT Press.

Latour, B. (2004) Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern, in “Critical Inquiry”, 30(2), pp. 225–248.

Law, J. and Singleton, V. (2005) Object Lessons, in “Organization”, 12(3), pp. 331–355.

Orr, J.E. (1996) Talking About Machines: An Ethnography of a Modern Job, New York, Cornell University Press.

Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2010) Matters of care in technoscience: Assembling neglected things, in “Social Studies of Science”, 41(1), pp. 85–106.

Star, S.L. (1999) The Ethnography of Infrastructure, in “American Behavioral Scientist”, 43(3), pp. 377–391.\