Research project

Technical Autonomy and Psychosocial Emancipation (ATEPS)

« This ethnographic research aims to understand, through the experience of the Itinerant Humanitarian Repair Lab set up by the French Red Cross, how support towards greater technical autonomy is likely to constitute a lever for psychosocial emancipation for the most disadvantaged. »

The research field, its specificities and difficulties

This ethnographic research focuses on the implementation of the « Repair Lab Humanitaire Itinérant », currently being experimented by the French Red Cross to help exiles in transit, and others in extremely precarious situations, to repair their personal belongings themselves. In addition to monitoring this mobile repair workshop and its activities, the study also includes a survey of experiments carried out in other humanitarian fablabs, in order to foster a comparative approach and broaden our vision of existing solutions for providing technical support to precarious populations. Based on the fields of visual anthropology and the anthropology of making, this research has led to the production of an ethnographic film.


What is the use of this research for humanitarian and/or social actors?

One of the aims of this research is to enable social and humanitarian players to gain a better understanding of the social and psychological benefits of DIY and repair, with a view to developing new methods of support for precarious populations. In fact, emancipation through doing, through practices such as self-building or the quest for energy autonomy, remains a little-studied field. More generally, monitoring a “humanitarian fablab” for several months during its experimental phase is an opportunity to draw lessons from this experience, in order to contribute to its sustainability, or even its wider dissemination.


Why is this research important for you, your background and the state of knowledge on the subject? What is the objective and scientific scope of your research?

The monitoring of the “Itinerant Humanitarian Repair Lab” is an opportunity to explore and question in a new light the third-party manufacturing movement (fablab, hackerspace, repair café, etc.), by looking at an open workshop model that can be described as a “humanitarian fablab”, dedicated to technical solidarity, and even to psychosocial emancipation through doing.

Thus, this ethnographic research examines the possibility of opening up the model of the open manufacturing laboratory to precarious populations in situations of material and psychological vulnerability. The aim is to understand to what extent, and under which conditions, do-it-yourself activities and the repair of everyday objects are likely to help people in precarious situations to take better charge of their material needs, but also to feel more socialized and involved in their present lives. How, in other words, can support towards greater technical autonomy strengthen the agentivity of the most disadvantaged, and contribute to improving their material and social well-being, as well as their self-esteem?



With a degree in philosophy, semiology and visual anthropology, Jérémie Grojnowski holds a Doctorate in Performing Arts from the University of Paris Nanterre. His research lies at the crossroads of visual anthropology, the anthropology of making and techniques, and the sociology of innovation. Through the production of ethnographic films, he is interested in technological alternatives ranging from digital countercultures to the low-tech domain, attached to the values of librism and, more broadly, the technological commons. His thesis in visual anthropology, devoted to the milieu of “self-building peasants”, gave rise to the film “Jours d’après”, shown at several national and international festivals.