The ‘Right to Repair’ Movement: Reorganizing control over knowledge in US industrial and information economies

Authors: Ingrid Behrsin*, University of California, Davis
Topics: Economic Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Right to repair, Critical discard studies, Feminist economic geography, Alternative economic imaginaries
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Marriott Ballroom Salon 1, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Deeply embedded in the ‘Right to Repair’ movement rippling through the United States are crucial conversations about value, reproductive labor, maintenance, and ecological sustainability. In particular, as an intervention that centers on developing and backing state legislation that grants automobile, farm machinery, and consumer electronics repairers and owners access to tools and information, the movement raises important questions about how a spatially diffuse and socio-demographically diverse public can interrupt hierarchical control over information and tools, and thus capital accumulation. Participants in this movement range from West Coast auto-didactic phone repairers, to Midwestern tractor owners, to East Coast recreational car mechanics. These constituencies, as well as zero waste advocates, pursue Right to Repair legislation because they see the cost of industry-controlled repair (e.g. of Apple consumer products and John Deere agricultural technologies) as prohibitively expensive, often impeding workers’ ability to maintain livelihoods. As Lepawsky et al. (2017, 87) note, it is “the space between use and discard [that] proliferates… the enactment of diverse economic possibilities via the action of repair, reuse, repurposing, and recycling.” In sum, this paper argues that the Right to Repair movement 1) reorganizes control over knowledge and systems of dependence, as well as 2) brings together individuals across geographic, cultural, jurisdictional, and political difference to enact new political and economic possibilities. References: Lepawsky, Josh, Erin Araujo, John-Michael Davis, and Ramzy Kahhat. 2017. “Best of Two Worlds? Towards Ethical Electronics Repair, Reuse, Repurposing and Recycling.” Geoforum 81 (May): 87–99. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2017.02.007

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