The fixing I: Repair as prefigurative politics

Oropallo, Gabriele (2019) The fixing I: Repair as prefigurative politics. In: Design culture: objects and approaches. Bloomsbury, London, pp. 157-169. ISBN 9781474289849


This chapter examines a series of instances how repair has been reframed in design discourse over the decade that followed the 2007 financial crisis. This period saw the launch of a number of initiatives including networks, and regular repair events in which expert ‘fixers’ meet members of the public to provide both entertainment, empowerment, and enlightenment. Geographically, these initiatives found a hatching ground in Western Europe and North America, even though they celebrated and re-contextualized language and methods adopted from repair traditions that developed over a longer period and in a less vocal fashion in scarcity economies including Cold-War Eastern Europe, Latin America and South Asia. Their narrative of bettering of the world through repair took new momentum once the cultural milieu of the 2007 crisis in Europe and North America provided the conditions for presenting this practice as providing a sphere of activity that is suspended from the unpredictable and de-personalized arena of market economy. To a greater or lesser extent, repair initiatives also share several rhetorical tropes with those that go under the rubric of design activism in their criticism of repetitive consumption and opposition to a policy environment that favours orthodox application of classical economy principles such as the ability of the market to self-manage itself and the neutrality of the state in economic policy matters. However, they also consistently place a hard emphasis on the opportunity of repair. Repair is presented as a way to unlock resources, and this language of expansionism sometimes seems at odds with a practice that promotes containment.

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