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Patchwork: Repair labor and the logic of infrastructure adaptation in Mexico City

De Coss-Corzo, Alejandro

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Alejandro De Coss-Corzo


This article introduces the concept of patchwork to understand how repair practices are carried out in Mexico City’s networked hydraulic infrastructure.Drawing on data gathered through a one-year participatory ethnography, patchwork follows the Mexico City Water System (SACMEX) workers’ descriptions of their own labor and how it relates to infrastructure in a context of structural austerity and rapid socio-material change. To do so, the article separates the analysis of repair practices from the logic of maintenance, challenging widely shared conceptions of how they relate to each other. Two distinct contributions are made possible by this move. On the one hand, it allows for a more detailed conceptualization of the work that repair labor does in relation to infrastructure and to other socio-material processes that are constantly shaping it. On the other, it enables an exploration of what I call the logic of adaptation, a form of infrastructure repair that is based not on returning objects and relations to a previously officially sanctioned order, but instead on fashioning normality as an ongoing process made possible through improvisational and incremental work. Exploring this logic, I argue that the endurance of urban infrastructure and of urban modernity requires the ad-hoc work of patchwork and of adaptive repair labor.


De Coss-Corzo, A. (2021). Patchwork: Repair labor and the logic of infrastructure adaptation in Mexico City. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 39(2), 237-253.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Jul 9, 2020
Publication Date Apr 1, 2021
Deposit Date Jul 17, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jul 17, 2020
Journal Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
Print ISSN 0263-7758
Electronic ISSN 1472-3433
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 39
Issue 2
Pages 237-253


Published Journal Article (Advance onlne version) (302 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance onlne version This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

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