Audio archives of the CSI Research Seminar – Maintaining/Supporting: fragility as a mode of existence (2017-2019)

Research Seminar organized by Jérôme Denis, Antoine Hennion, Anne-Sophie Haeringer and David Pontille

This open seminar was held once a month from December 2017 to July 2019. Recordings of the sessions that took place during these two years are available here, as well as an indicative bibliography.

The seminar started 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.

                                                  A must read about the seminar:

Antoine Hennion, “Maintenir/soutenir : de la fragilité comme mode d’existence”, Séminaire de recherche du Centre de sociologie de l’innovation (CSI), 2017-2019. Pragmata 2019-2, 484-500. [issue available online]

Season 2017-2018

Research Seminar organized by Jérôme Denis, Antoine Hennion and David Pontille

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

Jérôme Denis and David Pontille
Antoine Hennion

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

Professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and member of the GECo (Groupe d’études constructivistes), Didier Debaise, whose research has focused on Tarde, James, and especially Whitehead, has recently published L’appât des possibles, Presses du réel.

Sound recording of the session

March 6, 2018: Marielle Macé, La vie qualifiée

Marielle Macé is a literature historian and essayist who concentrated on style and life forms in her work. She has recently authored a beautiful book, published by Verdier, on migrants in France: Sidérer, considérer. Migrants en France, 2017.

Sound recording of the session

Mars 20, 2018: Alexei Yurchak, Laboratory for the Future: Lenin’s body between biochemistry and art

Alexei Yurchak is an Associate Professor in the UC Berkeley Department of Anthropology. His book Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More. The Last Soviet Generation (Princeton University Press) won the Wayne Vucinic Book Award for best book of the year from American Society for Eastern European, Eurasian and Slavic Studies.

Sound recording of the session

May 22, 2018: Anne-Sophie Haeringer, La fin de vie comme art de ménager d’innombrables passages

Anne-Sophie Haeringer is a sociologist, research fellow in the Politique de la connaissance team at the Max Weber Centre (UMR 5283) and associate researcher in the CRESSON (Centre de recherche sur l’espace sonore et l’environnement urbain) team at the Ambiances, architectures, urbanités laboratory (UMR 1563). Her research is conducted from a pragmatist perspective and is focused on the uncertain or overflowing existence of beings in-the-making, and on the modalities of attention, support or accompaniment these beings in-the-making are requiring. She explores fields such as the contemporary storytellers’ practices, local resident groups’ mobilization against urban renewal projects, or end-of-life accompaniment.

Sound recording of the session

June 5, 2018 [the session with Fernando Domìnguez Rubio had to be cancelled and postponed to next season]

June 26, 2018: Tim Edensor, Maintaining, Restoring, Neglecting and Disposing: the changing values of Melbourne’s building stones

Tim Edensor teaches cultural geography at Manchester Metropolitan University. His work has focused on national identity, tourism, ruins and urban materiality (he notably studied practices of built heritage restoration), and recently on mobility and landscapes of illumination and darkness. His book From Light to Dark: Daylight, Illumination and Gloom was published in 2017 by Minnesota University Press.

Sound recording of the session

Season 2018-2019

17 October, 2018: Seminar resuming. Antoine Hennion, Faire l’expérience de ce qui se passe. La question des migrants comme redéfinition du politique

Antoine Hennion, Research Director at the CSI, Mines-ParisTech, is one of the organizers of the seminar. He will report on the work carried out with PERU (Pôle d’exploration des ressources urbaines) on migrants in the “New Jungle” in Calais and La Chapelle in Paris.Antoine Hennion has worked on music and amateurs, on mediation and attachments, and on the reorientation of social inquiry based on current reinterpretations of pragmatism.

Sound recording of the session

7 November, 2018: Nicolas Prignot, Benedikte Zitouni and Livia Cahn, Comment décrire et faire importer un territoire fragilisé : les potagers à Bruxelles [How to describe a fragile territory and make it important: the vegetable gardens in Brussels]

Nicolas Prignot, Benedikte Zitouni and Livia Cahn are among the founders of the “Écologies de Bruxelles” research group (hosted by the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Université Saint-Louis Bruxelles), which works on ecological issues and the narratives that can be told about them. They are co-authors with Chloé Deligne, Noémie Pons-Rotbardt and Alexis Zimmer of the book Terres des villes. Enquêtes potagères de Bruxelles aux premières saisons du 21e siècle published in 2018 by Editions de l’Éclat.

Sound recording of the session

5 December, 2018: Sophie Houdart, De bout en bout. Ce qui change à considérer Fukushima comme un milieu fragile plutôt que comme un territoire contaminé [End to end. What changes when considering Fukushima as a fragile environment rather than a contaminated territory]

Sophie Houdart is a senior researcher at the CNRS and a member of the Laboratory of Ethnology and Comparative Sociology (LESC, UMR 7186, CNRS/Université Paris Nanterre). Her main research interests are both the local methods and practices of construction of modernity in Japan and the theme of creation and innovation. Her current research focuses on air and soil measurements by which populations, sometimes far from Fukushima, assess, on their own account, the radioactivity content of their environment.

Sound recording of the session

23 January, 2019: Emmanuel Bonnet, Diego Landivar, Alexandre Monnin, Cyprien Tasset, Sociologie pragmatiste et effondrement : prendre soin des mondes en train de se dé-faire [Pragmatist sociology and collapse: taking care of worlds in the un-making]

At a time when industrial development threatens the habitability of the Earth, or even when it can lead to a “collapse”, research approaches need to be radically rethought. This is the focus of the investigations conducted by Origens. From a pragmatic perspective, the question is no longer just to compose the pluralistic proliferation of expanding worlds: we must now learn to take care of worlds in the process of being undone. The seminar  considers these questions based on in-depth surveys conducted by Origens in various fields: among farmers and peasants, indigenous communities or “modern” organizations such as companies, artistic groups, or on digital fields.

Emmanuel Bonnet, teacher-researcher in management sciences at the Groupe ESC Clermont and at CRCGM (Centre de Recherche Clermontois en Gestion et Management). Diego Landivar, Professor of economics at the Groupe ESC Clermont and Associate Researcher at the CERDI-CNRS-Université Clermont Auvergne. Alexandre Monnin, philosopher, Research Director of Origens Medialab, Professor at ESC Clermont, and president of the association Adrastia. Cyprien Tasset, sociologist, Associate Researcher at the LCSP (Laboratoire du changement social et politique) of Université Paris 7-Diderot. See a presentation of Origens Media Lab

Sound recording of the session

20 February, 2019: Valérie Pihet, The experience of accompanying chronic diseases to the test of self-evaluation

Valérie Pihet is currently developing an activity of research and experimentation at the crossroads of Arts and Humanities. With the writer Émilie Hermant, she founded the association DingdingdongInstitute for the coproduction of knowledge about Huntington disease. Collaborator of Bruno Latour from 2002 to 2004, she coordinated his exhibits at ZKM in Karlsruhe (Iconoclash 2002, Making Things Public 2005), and then founded the Program of Experimentation in Arts and Politics (SPEAP) and the Medialab with him at Sciences Po.

Sound recording of the session

20 March, 2019: Fernando Domìnguez Rubio, The fragile object of art: An ecological investigation into the arts of care, meaning, and imagination

Fernando Domìnguez Rubio is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California San Diego. His research interests lie at the crossroads of sociology, science and technology studies, anthropology and arts. He has been investigating maintenance practices and the « ecologies of care », especially in the field of art, for several years. His book Art and the Ecologies of the Modern Imagination, which tackles the different techniques and methods of art conservation at the MoMA in New York, will soon be released by University of Chicago Press.

Sound recording of the session

17 April, 2019: Vololona Rabeharisoa and Florence Paterson, Maintenir une infrastructure en droit. Le Fichier National Automatisé des Empreintes Génétiques

Vololona Rabeharisoa and Florence Paterson conducted an investigation on the French national DNA database – Fichier National Automatisé des Empreintes Génétiques (FNAEG) – an infrastructure at the service of police and justice. They examined the work performed by the FNAEG Technical Committee in order to maintain the legality and the juridicity of the operations pertaining to this infrastructure. By following the discussions about one of these objects – sealed biological evidence – they show that at the heart of this work lies a major issue: the fragile balance of regalian power between necessity and unacceptable interference in the lives of individuals.

22 May, 2019: Tiziana Beltrame, Du paradoxe du fer et d’autres histoires matérielles au musée : une aile d’avion SPAD entre vie d’usage et patrimoine [Iron paradox and other material stories at the museum: A Spad aircraft wing between life and heritage]

Tiziana Nicoletta Beltrame is an IFRIS postdoctoral fellow in anthropology, affiliated with the Centre Alexandre Koyré in Paris. Her research focuses on the documentary-, archiving- and conservation practices of museum collections that involve technology and laboratory science. She is interested in an ecological approach to heritage that considers the objects inseparable from socio-technical devices, the tools as well as the gestures of the professionals who handle them and the spaces that preserve them, whether physical or digital. Her approach through the lens of the fragility of the collections highlights the roles, values and political stakes of preservation in the ordering of the world, and the articulation of knowledge and its temporalities. She is one of the scientific leaders of the project “Les réserves des musées de la Ville de Paris, Enquêtes sur les infrastructures de la conservation de l’art et du patrimoine” [The Reserves of the Museums of the City of Paris, Investigating the Infrastructures of Arts and Heritage Conservation](a research project of the Émergence(s) program, Cerlis, 2019-2021) and participates in the experimental writing workshop Créalab.

19 June, 2019: Myriam Winance, Et si les êtres fragiles étaient des êtres résistants ? Hypothèses autour des enfants polyhandicapés [What if fragile beings were resistant beings? Hypotheses about children with multiple disabilities]

Myriam Winance is a sociologist at the INSERM (National Institute for Health and Medical Research) in the CERMES3 (Centre for Research in Medicine, Sciences, Health, Mental Health and Society). Her research interests focus on how the notion of disability is defined in our society, on the one hand through policies and institutional arrangements, and on the other hand through people’s practices and experience. At the crossroads between a political socio-history of disability, sociology of health and science and technology studies, her work questions the notions of care, person, body and disability. She is currently conducting an investigation that connects the history of the political categories under which children with multiple deficiencies are designated and stories of families who have a child with multiple disabilities. Based on this twofold survey, she describes the different dimensions and forms taken by the “work of care” performed on a daily basis to take care of these children, interact with them, make them grow up… and correlatively how people involved in this work consider themselves and are considered –or disconsidered– as parent/child, child/child with multiple disabilities, child/special child, etc.

Sound recording of the session

3 July, 2019 : Antoine Hennion, Anne-Sophie Haeringer, David Pontille and Jérôme Denis: Feedback. This closing session gathered the organizers of the seminar (it was not open to the public).

Indicative bibliography

Citton, Y. (2014). Pour une écologie de l’attention. Paris: Le Seuil.

Coccia, E. (2010). La Vie sensible. Paris: Payot/Rivages.

Debaise, D. (2015). L’appât des possibles. Paris: Presses du réel.

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.

Haraway, D. (2018). Habiter le trouble. Parentés expérimentales dans le Chthulucene (trad. Thierry Drumm). Vaulx-en-Velin: Éditions des mondes à faire (à paraître).

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. [PDF]

Jackson, S. J. (2014). Rethinking repair. In T. Gillespie, P. J. Boczkowski & K. A. Foot (eds), Media technologies – essays on communication, materiality, and society. Cambridge: MIT Press, 221-240.

Latour, B. (2015). Face à Gaïa. Paris: La Découverte.

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.