Mending the commons with the ‘Little Mesters’

UDALL, Julia (2019). Mending the commons with the ‘Little Mesters’. Ephemera: Theory and Politics in Organization, 19 (2).

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The subjects of this paper are the ‘Little Mesters’ of Sheffield, UK. The Mesters are self-employed master craftspeople whose day-to-day work is dependent on repairing, recycling, and maintenance, in ways that are intertwined with the urban fabric, flows of goods, and collaborative manufacturing spanning generations. This long-established, yet fragile web of mutuality and reciprocal practices of repair by highly-skilled workers is under threat from enclosure, and yet, I argue, simultaneously offers possibilities for reclaiming the commons. Through collaborative mapping and activist work with a campaign group over eight years, I examine an instance of existential threat to a factory, Portland Works, home to Little Mesters. Through strategies of distributed design prompted by this threat, cultures and practices of repair have been harnessed, and repair has become politicised, dispersed and future-orientated, prefiguring the post-capitalist city. The enclosure of commons is particularly spatial and material, and therefore disruptive of certain more egalitarian forms of relating and organising; politically, economically, pedagogically and ecologically. I argue that practices of repair found in this instance offer possibilities to address such ruptures, through the ethical decisions they prompt, the assemblages they generate, or gestures of care they manifest. Repair is often conceptualised temporally, as an activity that returns something to a former state, yet I wish to assert its spatial and material agencies; as productive of spaces and relations, dependent on them, and potentially restorative of them. In doing so I claim its value to support the reclaiming of ‘common failures’, the amplification of existing instances of commoning, and the development of heterogeneous networks of commoners.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 1605 Policy And Administration; 1503 Business And Management; 2002 Cultural Studies
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2019 11:37
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 05:05

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