Maintaining Humans

This chapter forms part of a flourishing interest in histories of maintenance. It explores how maintenance and repair became an object of intense interest for the cold-war human sciences. Some of the key concerns of maintenance are to watch, observe and guard—all activities central to the experience of the Cold War. In that context, the figure of the maintenance technician itself became a focus of intense observation and anxiety for the human sciences. Taken up by engineering psychology, it was quickly positioned at the intersection of a newly rationalized material culture of war, and a set of legible human capacities designed to repair that culture when it broke down. The problem of making electronics reliable was, for engineering psychologists, a problem of defining technicians as figures who could think and act in trustworthy ways.

The full chapter appears in the edited volume, Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Liberal Democracy, and Human Nature, eds. Mark Solovey and Hamilton Cravens. You can find it here.