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

On 9 July 2012 21:01, Tom Martin <martincommatom@gmail.com> 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.

An alternative simple working definition of craft (as an activity) is David
Pye's "workmanship of risk".  Some form of production is aimed at, yet it
is the manner (means, mediation) that contributes to the aesthetic.  With
respect to workmanship of risk, this refers to the practices that achieve
the effects sort after in ways that intrinsically necessitate grace, and
whereby this grace is evident in the aesthetics of the completed effort.

David Pye carved wood, yet he was also an academic, which presented the
opportunity to articulate his ideas in "intellectual form".  I don't see
that common notions of material are relevant.  Everything has a material
basis as far as we can say, physically.  Telling stories may be raised to
craftsmanship, for instance.


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