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The work of repair: gesture, emotion and sensual knowledge

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Article number7
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/08/2009
<mark>Journal</mark>Sociological Research Online
Issue number(3)
Number of pages25
Pages (from-to)n/a
<mark>Original language</mark>English


As the pressure on limited natural resources and energy increases so the trend of the consumer society of the twentieth century towards discarding things that stop working and replacing them will shift towards a recycling and repairing things. This paper contrasts the work of production with the work of repair and argues that the later is an artisanal process in tune with the species being of humans identified by Marx. Amongst the distinctive characteristics of the work of repair are the use of a complex repertoire of gestures, a variable emotional tone and the gathering of sensual knowledge. These distinctively human characteristics are not amenable to systematisation or replication in a machine process. The argument is illustrated with reference to more than sixty years of research on mechanised production in the car industry and a recent study of the work of repairing cars in local garages. Video data – here summarised with still images – is used to show the complex process of the work of repair that is explored in the light of theoretical perspectives from Leroi-Gourhan, Hendrick, and Merleau-Ponty.