Rather than looking to the new and innovative, what if we stopped to consider the forces that keep things as they are? In this collective presentation, the Yale Working Group on Globalization and Culture takes up the critical issues of maintenance and care—the changing same, the constant need to maintain life and its infrastructures. From the frequent reminders to update to the newest software to one’s daily grooming or self-care, daily and routine maintenance and care permeates household life and interpersonal relationships, mental and physical health; it is also central to the functioning of social infrastructure and grids. If “the problem of maintenance becomes visible when it is lacking,” (as David Edgerton writes in The Shock of the Old), a “crisis of care” emerges when, as Nancy Fraser has noted, the “logic of economic production overrides that of social reproduction.” Our papers explore the exceptionable regimes of life support; the routine infrastructures that maintain colonial and imperial power in space; and the politics, networks and industries of care. Why it is so hard to stay the same and why do we spend so much time and energy to do so? Whether we are maintaining instruments or social status, infrastructure or bodies, the unglamorous labor of keeping things from falling apart is the undervalued preponderance of any system’s energetic economy.
The Working Group on Globalization and Culture began more than a decade ago in an effort to restore to cultural studies not so much the themes or theories of the Birmingham model, but its forms of collective work, trying to break out of the research frameworks of the academic department and the graduate program. Coming out of several different disciplines and inter-disciplines, we have tried to establish a cultural studies laboratory exploring keywords in contemporary culture and their resonance in social movements: debt, occupation, information, climate, and currents, presenting our work at conferences and in publications.