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

Tom, Martin, Peter and others,
One important message in Lave's 2011 book is that dualisms like that between informal and formal education are ethnocentric. That may be why she uses craft to discuss both tailoring and writing ethnography. She doesn't want to privilege writing over craftwork as many of us over-educated people often do. I think the example of calligraphy is an interesting one: it is simultaneously a form of visual art and a form of verbal communication. Those of us used to alphabetic systems are less aware of their visual properties unless we work in graphic design. (Anyone see the documentary Helvetica?)

While I was writing my dissertation, I took a course in tailoring with a woman who used an apprenticeship model of sorts to teach it. My previous experiences with sewing involved following printed patterns. She didn't use any printed instructions. Instead, she used guided participation (as in Rogoff or Greenfield's work on weaving). We didn't begin like the tailor's apprentices in Lave's study: with finishing garments. But if we ruined our suits, we had to pay the price ourselves because we weren't participating in a business for someone else. We started by having her help us adjust our paper patterns and then cutting out our garments. But along the way she showed us all the important aspects of tailoring: steaming, rolling collars, sewing button holes, stitching interfacing into collars and labels, and doing final adjustments. It took a lot of patience and concentration. I spent whole weeks putting in and taking out button holes and pockets. I spent weeks handstitching the collar and lapels.

Many of the same activities were done in my dissertation (putting in and taking out paragraphs or sections). It required patience and concentration. It had to be done in order. One activity was highly verbal, the other highly nonverbal. But it never occurred to me that one was a craft and the other was not.
Ellice Forman

From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Martin Packer [packer@duq.edu]
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2012 4:10 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: 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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