Publication Date: Oct 2017
RRP: $29.95
ISBN: 9781925495478
Format: Paperback
Size: 153mm x 210mm
Pages: 304
Category: Monash Studies in Australian Society


Australians Reinvent DIY Culture

Katherine Wilson

‘For the new wave of tinkers, it is a complex, legitimate, worthwhile pursuit that ranges across all facets of contemporary life – science, politics, economics, philosophy, psychology and sociology … Every interview is a revelation … Wilson is the perfect guide; insightful, witty and engaging.’ Frances AtkinsonSydney Morning Herald, January 2018

‘Like the backyard inventers whose stories she chronicles, Katherine Wilson exudes intelligence, curiosity and skills acquired from a range of disciplines. Smart, relevant and witty, Tinkering introduces us to eccentrics, autodidacts and visionaries, and then reveals how their passions illuminate the contemporary world. Part page-turning narrative, part provocative argument, this is cultural criticism at its best.’ Jeff Sparrow

‘A length of fencing wire, in my farm-boy childhood, could fix just about anything. This book has similar miraculous powers. It mixes sociology, science, economics, philosophy, anthropology and good old tinkerer know-how into an illuminating analysis of the clash between old and new ways of work. Full of fascinating insights and fascinating people, this book is a reminder that work is never just work, and can still have soul.’ Mark Davis

‘Katherine Wilson’s lively new book shows a mind every bit as supple, inventive and creative as her tinkering subjects. With great flair and originality, Wilson combines an incisive critique of our throwaway consumer world and the destructive social ecology which is its consequence, with a loving homage to the unexpectedly vibrant world of tinkering, fixing, repurposing, salvaging, repairing, mending, making and creating. More deeply, her achievement is to reveal the deeper forms of human relatedness, rich with meaning —  to each other, to ourselves, to the material objects we live and work with —  made possible when we step outside the clapped-out binaries which privilege market work and consuming things over a life well lived.’ Anne Manne

‘Truly a pleasure to read. A thoughtful and erudite way to set the scene for the discussion to come.’ Susan Luckman


At a time when the labour market is failing as a source of security and identity for many, domestic tinkering is emerging as a legitimate vocation, in ways we haven’t seen since pre-industrial times. Practices of repair, crafting, invention, building and improvising that take place in Australia’s sheds, backyards, paddocks, kitchens and home-workshops are becoming a vital part of our informal economy and social cohesion, complicating distinctions between work and leisure, amateur and professional, production and consumption.

Building on the work of historians, sociologists, psychologists and economists, but with a journalist’s impulse for the currency of her story, Katherine Wilson documents domestic tinkering as an undervalued form of material scholarship, social connection, psychological sanctuary and political activism. Equal parts field guide and love letter, Tinkering: Australians Reinvent DIY Culture mounts a surprising case for the profound value of domestic tinkering in contemporary Australia.

Katherine Wilson

Katherine Wilson works as an editor, writer, researcher and tinkerer. She also teaches in the university sector, where she has a PhD in cultural studies. Her feature articles have appeared in the AgeSydney Morning HeraldConversationAustralianCourier-MailArt MonthlyCrikey.comNew Matilda, the Law Institute Journal and Good Weekend. Her essays have appeared in journals including Griffith ReviewMeanjinEyelineEureka Street and Overland. She edited Overland between 2002 and 2007 and has worked in advocacy roles for non-profit and environmental bodies.