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


I don't have a strong disagreement with your argument that the term 'craft' should be reserved for an activity both physical and social, if I follow you correctly. But I think that Ingold *would* say that writing is a craft. 

According to my notes (I don't have the precise reference) Ingold argues that writing is not a technology but a bodily art; one writes not just with the hand but with the whole body. The complex tools - pen, typewriter, etc. - don’t amount to a technology in the sense of a set of rules or procedures; rather, writing is a matter of embodied skills. This is just as true of speech, but writing - with the independence of what is written from the writer, the rules of spelling and grammar, the irrelevance of tone of voice and paralinguistics - gives us our - mistaken - model of spoken language.

Perhaps people who are reading Jean Lave's book (such as Ellice Forman) can tell us more about why ethnography is to be taken as a craft.


On Jul 9, 2012, at 3:01 PM, Tom Martin wrote:

> 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
> writes:
> “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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