Symposium: The Cultural Politics of Breakdown & Repair

March 6, 2018

Friday, April 6, 2018 — 1:30–4:45 p.m., with reception following. Sponsored by the Potomac Center for the Study of Modernity. Free and open to the public.

Location: The University of Maryland Center for Art and Knowledge at The Phillips Collection
Hillyer Court, NW, Washington, DC 20008

Complete details:

This symposium brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to explore how narratives of breakdown and repair provide new perspectives on the human condition, subjectivities, history and our understanding of failures. As we survey the cultural landscape of the anthropocene and the current state of the US political economy, breakdown and the attendant precarity of things on multiple scales (global, national, personal, linguistic) demand attention across the humanities and social sciences. What are the different genealogies of breakdown and repair that have been marginalized by capitalism’s ideology of progress and its practice of planned obsolescence? How might opening up discussions about these connections help us to begin to understand the histories of modernity and its effects? What voices and vocations might this work help to reclaim and reassert? What are the shifting politics and legal frameworks of breakdown and repair? How do processes of breakdown and repair intersect with gender, race and social class? What formal and informal institutions shape these histories and narratives? How are they embodied and articulated in language, objects, places and bodies?


Lisa Gitelman
Professor, Department of English and Department of Media, Culture and Communication
New York University

Andrew Bickford
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology
Georgetown University

Jill Stauffer
Associate Professor, Department of Peace, Justice and Human Rights
Academic Director, Center for Peace and Global Citizenship
Haverford College


Elizabeth Anker
Associate Professor, Department of American Studies and Department of Political Science
George Washington University


Joel Kuipers
Professor, Department of Anthropology and Elliott School of International Affairs
George Washington University

Symposium Chair

Joshua A. Bell
Curator of Globalization, Department of Anthropology
National Museum of Natural History