Maintenance and Its Knowledges: Functional Exploration, Biographical Supervision, and Behavioural Examination

  • Jérôme Denis
  • Daniel Florentin
  • David Pontille


This introductory article to the thematic collection entitled “Maintenance and its Knowledges” makes a significant departure from breakdown-centred studies. It foregrounds the epistemic virtues of maintenance, a practice that cultivates continuity, by examining a still underestimated and unexplored dimension: the forms of knowledge associated with maintenance activities. A twofold aim guides such an exploration. First, repair and maintenance interventions are examined as particular sites and moments of knowledge generation. Second, building on the scholarship dedicated to improvisation and learning dynamics in the Global South that has structured numerous works on maintenance, this article considers how it can be extended towards the Global North. Recalling that maintenance has been mostly investigated from the question of how, it stresses out the various tools involved in knowledge generation, the organisation of tasks at play in different settings and their politics. It then goes beyond the how question to embrace a more ontological perspective, focussing on what people do properly maintain, and what kinds of knowledge emerge at this particular moment. Such a line of inquiry opens up three directions towards which the production of knowledge is oriented in maintenance: functional exploration, biographical supervision, and behavioural examination.


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22 Apr 2024
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