i3, une unité mixte de recherche CNRS (UMR 9217)

Institut Interdisciplinaire de l'Innovation

Year 2017-2019

Maintaining / supporting: fragility as a mode of existence

CSI Research Seminar, Jérôme Denis, Antoine Hennion et David Pontille

Open seminar, held once a month over two years, on Tuesday 11 am-1 pm (December 2017 to June 2019). For better planning, please send an email announcing your presence to catherine.lucas@mines-paristech.fr

The seminar starts with one observation: the current proliferation of research that deals with care, or attention. These studies investigate the climate or Gaia, the art of repairing objects or conserving artworks, the maintenance of technical networks, or the right ways to consider vulnerable or marginalised people. Our project will be successful if we manage to find fertile passages – tighter, better woven, singular, to dig in situation – between empirical research and the thematic speculative approaches emerging everywhere on this matter: reflections on what it takes, philosophically, critically, politically, to support fragile entities, and thus to participate in the curious reciprocal enrichment that such caring relations carry, as if they were granting each of their terms more existence.

Beyond the variety of these studies and the imperious nature of the commitment they demand, it appears to us that this growing body of research demonstrates a worry and concern that is new, both in terms of sensitivity and of objectives, vis-à-vis the fragility of the world, beings and things. Beings or states that are at the same time endangered and in the process of constituting: this could be the provisional definition of fragility or precariousness we adopt. We do not take fragility as a state that only defines some of us but as a shared way of grasping these open realities, often rough but rich in possibilities; fragility is not a flaw or a lack, according to a default definition, but what requires a form of attention that makes us sensitive to these calls.

By accompanying rather than observing these realities, researchers mobilize a wide range of resources from different traditions. Going beyond the requirement for participation, one has to question the very nature of research if one has to reconcile one’s care for the state of the world with the need for rigorous empirical investigations. This should include the modes of inquiry, the relationship with the actors, objects and environments, the status of texts and deeds produced, as well as questioning our interactions with other disciplines and with philosophers, writers, artists or activists.

Taking advantage of this momentum, in which we play a part, and in the wake of the resumption of pragmatism, philosophies of difference or pluralistic anthropologies, the seminar aims at a better understanding of these researches of a new kind. By discussing them and connecting them, sometimes paradoxically, around the topic of fragility, our aim is to unfold the forms of inquiry, writing and action that these studies all at once require and reinvent, while reformulating the concepts that may support this movement.


December 19, 2017: Introduction to the seminar, by its organizers

January 23, 2018: Didier Debaise, Le récit des êtres précaires. Héritages du pragmatisme

March 6: Marielle Macé, Sidérer-Considérer

Mars 20: Alexei Yurchak, Preserving Lenin’s bodies

May 22 : Anne-Sophie Haeringer, La fin de vie comme art de ménager d’innombrables passages

June 5: Fernando Domìnguez Rubio, The fragile object of art: An ecological investigation into the arts of care, meaning, and imagination

June 26: Tim Edensor, Maintaining, Restoring, Neglecting and Disposing: the changing values of Melbourne’s building stones



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Denis, J. & D. Pontille (2015). Material ordering and the care of things. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 40(3), 338-367.

Denis, J. & D. Pontille (2017). Beyond Breakdown: Exploring Regimes of Maintenance. Continent, 6(1), 13-17.

Domínguez Rubio, F. (2016). On the discrepancy between objects and things. Journal of Material Culture, 21(1), 59-86.

Domínguez Rubio, F. (2014). Preserving the Unpreservable: Docile and Unruly Objects at MoMA. Theory and Society, 43(6), 617-645.

Edensor, T. (2011). Entangled agencies, material networks and repair in a building assemblage: The mutable stone of St Ann’s church, Manchester. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 36(2), 238-252.

Graham, S. & N. Thrift (2007). Out of order: Understanding repair and maintenance. Theory, Culture & Society, 24(3), 1-25.

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Hennion, A. & P.A. Vidal-Naquet (2017). Might Constraint be Compatible with Care? Sociology of Health and Illness, 39(5), 741-758.

Hennion, A. (2016). The Work to be Made. An Art of Touching. In B. Latour & C. Leclerc (eds), Reset Modernity! Cambridge: MIT Press, 208-214.

Hennion, A. & C. Sintive (2016). Un cahier qui pourrait s’intituler “Ce qui se passe” à Calais. PUCA/Pérou:  http://www.urbanisme-puca.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/un_cahier_qui_pourrait.pdf

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Macé, M. (2017). Sidérer, considérer. Migrants en France 2017. Paris: Verdier.

Mol, A., I. Moser & A. J. Pols (eds) (2010). Care in Practice: On Tinkering in Clinics, Homes and Farms. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag

Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2011). Matters of care in technoscience: Assembling neglected things. Social Studies of Science, 41(1), 85-106.

Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2012). ‘Nothing comes without its world’: thinking with care. Sociological Review, 60(2), 197-216.

Tsing, A.L. (2017). Le champignon de la fin du monde. Paris: La Découverte.

Yurchak, A. (2015). Bodies of Lenin: The hidden science of communist sovereignty. Representations, 129(1), 116-157.