CFP: Do-It-Yourself! Subversive Practices and Informal Knowledge

November 19-20, 2015, The Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe – Institute of the Leibniz Association, Gisonenweg 5-7, 35037 Marburg

Annual Conference of the Leibniz Graduate School “History, Knowledge, Media in East Central Europe”

Organizers: Sarah Czerney, Jan Surman, Ina Alber

The idea of doing-it-yourself, tinkering and bricolage can be found at all times and everywhere: dissidents print their samizdat publications on re-designed washing machines, do-it-yourselfers spend hours in cellars and sheds, amateur inventors hope for their creations to breakthrough, technicians supplement their laboratory equipment with everyday materials or combine different instruments, scientists search for alternative forms of academic exchange in BarCamps. In order to re-arrange the objects and to bring them together in new ensembles – to give them new purposes and functions – one needs innovation and virtuosity. In this way new objects and new forms of knowledge develop in the shadowy corridors of doing it yourself. But can this kind of knowledge make its way into the daylight?

“Do it yourself” is a cultural practice that transcends societies and times. In times of shortages doing it yourself offers alternatives to official resources. During the last years the idea of “do it yourself” has served as critique towards capitalism as well, for instance when producing new things out of recycled waste. In each of these ways do it yourself functions as an anti-pole to the officially regulated and controlled administration of resources. But it can also be politically instrumentalized and become part of mainstream culture like Zrób-to-sam or the Do-It-Yourself movement in the 1970s in East and West. Hollywood sitcoms like Home Improvement turned these developments into popular culture and profit. Does such affiliation mean do-it-yourself-knowledge loses its subversive potential?

Our conference focuses on these heterogeneous forms of do-it-yourself and bricolage, and analyzes both the practices and the knowledge that are being produced by them: What was done in such way in different times and contexts and how was it done? What materials and media were combined? What does one do by him/herself? How can the concept of informal knowledge be used to understand such phenomena and what is its relation to formal and regulated knowledge? And who decides what is formal and informal here? How can a do-it-yourself-knowledge be subversive? Under what conditions can such a knowledge be socially relevant?

Call for papers

We open these questions to scholars of different epochs and disciplines, as well as activists, who are all invited to join us in the project of doing-it-together. We are interested in case studies from different fields and regions as well as personal accounts of subversive do-it-yourself activities.

Abstracts may be submitted in English or German; the conference will be bilingual and there will be no simultaneous translation. The organizers expect that the participants will be able to follow the papers in both languages, longer bilingual abstracts will be provided in advance. Travel and accommodation costs for the speakers will be covered. Please send your abstract (maximum of 2,000 characters) as well as a short CV with details of your current research interests and recent publications to Ina Alber ( Accepted speakers will be notified by 15 April 2015.

For further inquiries, please contact the managing director of the Leibniz Graduate School, Ina Alber.

Deadline: February 28, 2015

Posted: January 13, 2015