repair in Mars & Medak 2019
s in the 1960s as an attempt to subvert the separations that a mature capitalism
imposes on social reality. In the present, we claim, the radicality equivalent to the avantgarde is to divest from the disruptive dynamic of innovation and focus on the repair,
maintenance and care of the broken social world left in techno-capitalism’s wake.
Comparably, the university and the public library should be able to claim the radical
those gesture of slowdown and custodianship too, against the imperative of inno
out? Under these circumstances, the
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imperative is that these institutions have to re-invent themselves, that they have
to innovate in order to keep up with the disruptive course and accelerated the
pace of change.
Custodianship and repair
In what follows we will argue against submitting to this imperative of innovation.
Starting from the conditions from which shadow libraries emerge, as laid out in
the first Custodians.online letter, we claim that the historical trajectory of the
from view in the productivist mindset, and yet invisibly sustaining that activity of
innovation and any other activity in the social world we inhabit (Hughes, 1993).
What remains then is the maintenance of stagnant infrastructures, the work of
repair to broken structures and of care for resources that we collectively depend
As a number of scholars who have turned their attention to the matters of repair,
maintenance and care suggest, it is the sedimented material infrastructures of
the everyday and their breakdown that in fact condition and drive much of the
innovation process (Graham and Thrift, 2007; Jackson, 2014). As the renowned
historian of te
a global division of labor is producing a growing precarity for
ever larger segments of the world’s working population and the planetary
systems are about to tip into non-linear changes, a truly radical gesture is that
which takes as its focus the repair of the effects of productivism. Approaching the
library and the university through the optic of social infrastructure allows us to
glimpse a radicality that their supposed inertia, complexity and stability make
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possible. This slowdo
s and patrons, but also to a general public – that can reduce economic
imperatives and diminish insecurities. While doing this they also create
institutional preconditions that, unlike business-cycle driven institutions, can
support the structural repair that the present double crisis demands.
If the historical avant-garde was birthing of the new, nowadays repeating its
radicalism would seem to imply cutting through the fog of innovation. Its
radicalism would be to inhabit the non-new. The non-new th
ng productivity have paradoxically resulted in
underemployment and inequality. We’re at a juncture: accelerated crisis of
capitalism, accelerated climate change, accelerated erosion of political systems
are trajectories that leave little space for repair. The full surrender of
technological development into the hands of the market forces leaves even less.
The avant-garde radicalism nowadays is standing with the social institutions that
permit, speaking with Lauren Berlant, the ‘loose convergence’
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Graham, S. and N. Thrift, (2007) ‘Out of order: Understanding repair and
maintenance’, Theory, Culture & Society, 24(3): 1– 25.
Groys, B. (2014) On the new. London:Verso.
Hall, G. (2016) The uberfication of the university. Minneapolis: Minnesota
Harris, M.H. (1999) History of libraries of the wes
2016) ‘Logged labour: A new paradigm of work organisation?’, Work
Organisation, Labour and Globalisation, 10(1): 7– 26.
Iverson, S. (1999) ‘Librarianship and resistance’, Progressive Librarian, 15, 14-19.
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.
James, S. (2012) ‘A woman’s place’, in S. James, Sex, race and class, the perspective
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