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[xmca] Use of the term 'craft' in Lave’s “Changing Practice”

While I was excited to see such a provocative article from Jean Lave,
I was troubled by her relaxed handling of the term “craft.” Speaking
of her 2011 "Apprenticeship in Critical Ethnographic Practice", she

“I focus here, albeit briefly, not so much on the tailors’
apprenticeship, but on that other ‘apprenticeship’—the ethnographer’s
long process of learning. In the book I trace this improvised practice
through my own research in Liberia. It certainly takes practice to
come to inhabit a critical ethnographer’s craft.” (166)

Craft and craftsmanship are the perennial case studies for those
interested in motor cognition and handskills education. Just in recent
years, authors like Mike Rose and Richard Sennett have made notable
progress in highlighting craftsmanship scenarios as cites in which
traditional theories of learning -- or, in fact, understanding -- are
undermined. This is presumably the sort of space the demands Lave’s
critical ethnography; only with more creative research methods can we
step back far enough to see the entire process of education in a
cultural light, as the participants’ engagement with and changing of
social forms.

It is clear why the study of craft demands critical ethnographic
practice. However, it is less convincing to portray critical
ethnography as craft, unless the definition of craft is reduced to
something like skilled practice that hinges on an understanding of
social forms. While craft is this, it must surely also need to be
physical and bodily. Recycling Ingold’s quote from this article:

“As properties of persons, developed in the contexts of their
engagement with other persons or person- like agencies in the
environment, technical skills are themselves constituted within the
matrix of social relations. Hence, insofar as they involve the use of
tools, these must be understood as links in chains of personal rather
than mechanical causation, serving to draw components of the
environment into the sphere of social relations rather than to
emancipate human society from the constraints of nature.”

I take Ingold's "technical skills" to exclude writing, and "tools" to
exclude language; without the full original text in front of me,
Lave's two previous examples from Ingold were lassoing and playing the
cello. The real object of study in craftsmanship is the relationship
between the physical and the social. Studies in craftsmanship and
apprenticeship must explore the obscure ways in which a person learns
about both physical materials and social relations outside of
language, through the use of his or her body. The political
implications for this kind of research are obvious, as it would lead
to educational practice that is more respectful of the individual as a
whole physical being, engaging in a complicated process of learning
in/through culture.

So then, how is writing ethnography a craft? The only reasoning I can
imagine is somehow claiming that writing itself is a physical process
(Michael Taussig’s “I swear I saw this” comes to mind, but seems like
a stretch). I am concerned that Lave’s more conversational use of this
word risks robbing it of its full meaning, which includes physical
non-language learning. This element is surely why craft and
apprenticeship are so deserving of critical ethnographic investigation
in the first place.
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