The "Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology" aims at developing ‘an anthropology of/as urbanism’. It critically explores governmental, everyday, insurgent and more-than-human practices of city making. It also experiments with ethnography as a more-than-textual, multimodal practice.

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Repair as repopulating the devastated desert of our political and social imaginations

In my contribution––originally conceived as a comment in a workshop where the different chapters were discussed, and here framed as a conclusion to the volume––, I reflect on how the different works resonate with a growing series of recent works addressing Southern Europe in/as Crisis.


In my contribution––originally conceived as a comment in a workshop where the different chapters were discussed, and here framed as a conclusion to the volume––, I reflect on how the different works resonate with a growing series of recent works addressing Southern Europe in/as Crisis. Indeed, the recent post-2008 crises have rekindled the fear of ‘going backwards,’ still very vivid in migration tropes from the 1960s–70s. However, this assessment of ‘backwardness’ unfolds a wider European genre of telling ‘what the problem is’, with peculiar connotations for Southern Europe: where ‘modernity’ and its alleged univocal drive towards ‘progress’ comes centre stage: Europe, here, appears as a particular poetics of infrastructure.

But these crises have also rekindled a ‘slight orientalism’ of Southern Europe: a nearby place conjuring images of the far away or, more precisely, a slightly far away nearby place. This slight orientalism has been over the years conveniently mobilised over and over again in the ways in which tourism is branded and marketed. Interestingly, it has also served later on to underpin the ‘exceptionality of Europe’ trope and its violent incarnation in the perceived threats of non-European migration: fierce – when not most of the time overly brutal – border and sea control, detention and containment or racialised police checks. Southern Europe as both leisure resort and boundary-maker of ‘Fortress Europe’.

However, beyond these tropes, and in a context of experimentation with ‘neoliberal’ forms of government the financialisation of life and the expansion of indebtedness have also brought with them other explanations for what the problem was and what to do about it. Indeed, to many, the Common Market, and later the European Union, have been quintessential mechanisms for that economic transformation. One in which the developmental issue of Southern and Eastern Europe was addressed beyond explicitly racialised terms, yet forcefully reinstating a particularly modernist ontology of the social: a scalar one, which not only classifies actors in terms of a grid of the big and the small (macro and micro; the state and the people; society/group and the individual), but also creates concomitant orders of worth and causality with regards to what it might mean to take political action.

Against this background, the works here compiled offer alternative accounts. Notably, the Portuguese verb reparar has a nuance that the English ‘to repair’ does not have: one that goes beyond ‘to fix something that is broken or damaged’ and ‘to take action in order to improve a bad situation’ (the two main definitions found in the Macmillan English Dictionary). Reparar also means ‘to observe’, ‘to pay attention’. The descriptive repertoire that this anthology brings forward would thus help us shed light on the distinct nuances that different groups, people and collectives might be bringing about, unsettling unified narratives around what might have happened and what to do with it. Observing, paying attention to the forms of repair, hence, might be the best antidote to ready-made explanations of the ‘what’ and ‘why’, and any ready-made concepts or frameworks suggesting what should be done and how: an unsettled response to an unsettling condition, perhaps?

In my opinion, what is at stake in the particularly reparative practices and relations beyond scale, assembled in this anthology (dances, moneylending, the retrieval of ancient legacies, caring for discarded goods or engaging in different forms of urban activism) is a dispute of the actual definition of ‘welfare’. In other words, the works here compiled might portray a reinvention of ‘welfare society’ that does not bear the mark of disaster, but of hope: a hope that in these particularly disastrous times of ours – when crises do not seem to have an end – they might be ‘repopulating the devastated desert of our [social and political] imaginations’, to say it with Stengers.

As I see it, the allegedly small has never been more important to recasting our hopes, to repopulating our imaginations of the greater good, devastated by austerity and the path-dependency of neoliberal rule. Especially when everything seems lost, these modes of repair show the hopeful character of how things might be created anew: not going back to ‘what we were’, but experimenting with modes of togetherness yet to be defined.

– Criado, T.S. (2020): Repair as Repopulating the Devastated Desert of Our Political and Social Imaginations. In: F. Martínez (Ed.) Politics of Recuperation, London: Routledge, pp.207-220.

Other publications by the same authors

Waste What?

Tomás Criado, Ignacio Farías, Vera Susanne Rotter, Johannes Scholz, Isabel Ordóñez, Petra Beck, Sebastian Quack
2022

Multimodale Werte: Zur Institutionalisierung mehr-als-textueller Ethnographie

Tomás Criado, Ignacio Farías, Julia Valeska Schröder
2022

Multimodal Values: The Challenge of Institutionalizing and Evaluating More- than-textual Ethnography

Tomás Criado, Ignacio Farías, Julia Valeska Schröder
2022

Experimental Collaborations: Ethnography through fieldwork devices (edited book)

Tomás Criado
2018

Ensamblajes peatonales: Los andares a ciegas como prácticas tecno-sensoriales

Tomás Criado
2021

Civilising technologies for an ageing society? The performativity of participatory methods in Socio-gerontechnology

Tomás Criado
2021

Uncommoning the city

Tomás Criado
2021

Acompañantes epistémicos: la invención de la colaboración etnográfica

Tomás Criado
2020

Anthropology as a Careful Design Practice?

Tomás Criado
2021

DIY Anthropology: Disciplinary knowledge in crisis

Tomás Criado
2019

"The lady is not here:" Repairing Tita Meme as a telecare user

Tomás Criado
2019

Care in Trouble: Ecologies of Support from Below and Beyond

Tomás Criado
2020

Erfahren: Experimente mit technischer Demokratie in Entwurfskursen

Tomás Criado, Ignacio Farías
2019

Can ANT be a form of activism?

Tomás Criado
2019

Technologies of friendship: Accessibility politics in the ‘how to’ mode

Tomás Criado
2019

Re-learning Design: Pedagogical Experiments with STS in Design Studio Courses

Ignacio Farías, Tomás Criado
2018

Experimental sites and encounters: Open formats as catalysts forthe renewal of ethnographic arts

Tomás Criado
2018

Co-laborations, Entrapments, Intraventions: Pedagogical Approaches to Technical Democracy in Architectural Design

Tomás Criado, Ignacio Farías
2018

Speed: An Introduction

Tomás Criado
2017

Colaboraciones experimentales: infraestructuras de campo y re-aprendizajes de la antropología

Tomás Criado
2016