Accepted Paper:

A caring community for things: Loving 404s together  


Dick Willems (Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam)

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I want to learn from a caring community outside health care. On the basis of participant observations and a study of a bimonthly magazine, and building on the work of Hennion and Gomart on 'amateurs', I will investigate a community that cares for, and loves, a particular type of things: old cars, especially the Peugeot 404 (I have two of those). Meetings of 404 lovers and articles in their magazine are couched in a highly aesthetical, but also a strongly care-related language. They not only share a desire for preservation and beauty, but also for innovation: such cars, for instance, are often dressed up with the most sophisticated forms of audio equipment. 'Caring' is also related to functioning: a beautiful 404 that cannot move is a car not being cared for and about. Caring raises questions and discussions about what the good is that this care should bring about: should the 404 shine and glimmer or should it show its age (veracity)? Should it have safety belts or not (authenticity)? Should it be made less polluting by putting in a new engine (postmodernist re-working)? Caring for 404's also involves political negotiations about taxing and acceptable pollution levels, and about what 'old' really means as a ground for special treatment; in these negotiations, a solidarity between things and people (other brands of old timers and their owners, for instance) emerges. The parallels between communities caring for things and caring for humans will be explored in the paper.

Panel E1
Technological innovations in caring communities: New solidarities