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What happens when objects behave unexpectedly or fail to do what they 'should'? Who defines failure? Is failure always bad? Rather than viewing concepts such as failure, incoherence or incompetence as antithetical to social life, this innovative new book examines the unexpected and surprising ways in which failure can lead to positive and creative results.
Combining both theoretical and ethnographic approaches to failure, When Things Do Wrong explores how failure manifests itself and operates in a variety of contexts. The editors present ten ethnographic encounters of failure – from areas as diverse as design, textiles, religion, beauty, and physical failure – covering Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, and the Arabian Gulf. Identifying common themes such as interpersonal, national and religious articulations of power and identity, the book shows some of the underlying assumptions that are revealed when materials fail, designs crumble, or things develop unexpectedly.
The first anthropological study dedicated to theorizing failure, this innovative collection offers fresh insights based on the latest scholarship. Destined to stimulate a new area of research, the book makes a vital contribution to material culture studies and related social science theory.