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Accepted Paper:

The location of failure: on fog capture and materiality in Lima, Peru  
Chakad Ojani (Uppsala University)

Paper short abstract:

Along the Peruvian coast, fog capture sets out to respond to the lack of large-scale infrastructural provisioning. When fog catchers themselves fail, they bring into view a set of relations that not only renegotiate failure as spatiotemporally distributed, but ultimately help obviating failure away.

Paper long abstract:

In Lima and along the Peruvian coast more broadly, NGOs, scientists, and civil society associations engage in experiments with fog catchers. These sieve-like material assemblages have the capacity to conjure notably large volumes of water by trapping and condensing tiny water droplets suspended in the air. Accordingly, they are viewed as humanitarian technologies that provide quick and impactful responses to the absence of State induced, large-scale infrastructural provisioning. However, the particular grip on the atmosphere afforded by fog catchers often proves fleeting, and fog quickly slips into ephemerality again. Except for eye-catching reports in national and international media, what remains of many such initiatives are often mere remnants, sometimes repurposed and integrated into other auto-construction projects. In this paper I discuss what happens when relations of capture fail to hold. While disappointing, such material failures throw the materiality of failure into relief. They bring into view a set of relational excesses and absences which are deemed to require reconfiguration for fog capture to successfully happen; the relations of disconnection entailed by ‘off-the-grid’ demand a set of concomitant relations of connection. Against this backdrop, I suggest that moments of failure can be productive of contexts, and I further show how such contexts, together with accusations about corruption, become resources for renegotiating failure itself as something that is spatiotemporally distributed and difficult to localise. Failure becomes renegotiated not by trying harder or learning from mistakes, but by retrodictively and speculatively obviating failure away.

Panel Irre01
Accounting for failure
  Session 1 Tuesday 30 March, 2021, -