A Printer’s Destiny

Anna Heitger

Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems (IRI THESys), Humboldt University of Berlin


This piece is a reflection on my encounter with an abandoned printer and the theoretical sentiments evoked by this seemingly unremarkable encounter. Based on a photograph I took, I try to grasp the ephemerality of this encounter by exploring the printer’s possible past and futures and its agency through notions of materiality and Kopytoff’s “biography of things”.

During this journey the printer takes me on, I talk about the brokenness of the world that is unraveled in a close look at this picture; I talk about agency that is perhaps particularly stubborn in the case of a printer; and I talk about affectivities and entanglements that emerge between shifting materialities.

In opening up this perspective, I wish to articulate an agency that is not only mine, that is more than mine, and to bring theoretical insights into the real world of sometimes quite ordinary things that are left to face their own destiny.


Materiality; Agency; Biography of Things; Affect Theory

Author contact: anna.heitger [at] hu-berlin.de

Citation: Heitger, A., 2019. “A Printer’s Destiny”, Irish Journal of Anthropology, 22(1), 51-54.