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Emancipatory Interferences with Machines?

Waltraud Ernst


Powerful entanglements and meanings of difference between machines and humans, designers and users, women and men become enacted in technical devices. Is there a potential for an emancipatory interference with industrial machines, their users and their designers? To answer this question, this paper develops a theoretical account from a feminist new materialist perspective on phenomena as political objects, machines as material agents, and gender as a material-discursive practice. To exemplify the theoretical claim, findings from an interdisciplinary research and development project are presented and discussed. Thereby, I argue for emancipatory interferences with machines on three levels. First, emancipatory interferences take place in the everyday “intra-action” between professional users and their machines with regard to the production of goods and thus gainful (self-) employment. Second, emancipatory interferences occur within collaborative research of these practices, and intervene in the apparatus of that research. Third, emancipatory interferences occur in the machine design process by enacting heterogeneous processes of experiencing and knowing that are diversely situated within both practices and practitioners in the workplace. I demonstrate how the project supported transformative becomings in the situated production of knowledge and items created with industrial machines.


gender; emancipatory interference; material-discursive practice; industrial machine; engineering; material agents

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