The introduction co-authored by Philippe Sormani, Alain Bovet and Ignaz Strebel spells out the empirical and theoretical interest of studying repair work in situ against the background of recent developments in STS (its principal “materiality” foci), classic ethnographies of repair work (in both rural and urban settings), and “Broken World Thinking” (Jackson 2014) more broadly. Drawing upon phenomenological and pragmatist insights, the introduction argues for a broadened perspective on the actual unfolding of multiple situations of material disruption, whilst emphasizing the heuristic interest of breakdown(s) for re-examining repair, rethinking infrastructure maintenance, and relocating materiality. In so doing, the introduction makes explicit the rationale that articulates the three book sections—“Settings,” “Networks,” and “Politics”—and its successive ordering of chapters.
Sormani, P., Bovet, A., & Strebel, I. (2019). Introduction: When Things Break Down. In I. Strebel, A. Bovet, & P. Sormani (Eds.), Repair Work Ethnographies. Revisiting Breakdown, Relocating Materiality (pp. 1-27). Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.
Photograph: © Douglas Harper, via the book (originally published in Harper 1987)