Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for East Asian Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Labor
Secondary Theme: Persistence
The craft economy that has emerged in the global North (Ocejo 2017) often finds its value articulated in terms of its relationship to technology, community, and local identity. While craft and artisanship may serve as a “‘foil’ to cosmopolitan modernity” and the forces of globalization (Wilkinson-Weber and DeNicola 2016), it also presents a dynamic field of competition and contestation through which careers are forged, practices adapted, histories and identities transposed. Drawing on ethnographic research engaged with the East Asia region, this panel examines craft and artisanship from multiple vantage points—practices and objects; networks and professions—to better understand how craft emerges in the present not as peripheral pursuit but a critical site in ongoing debates about the contested, coopted and contingent nature of social life and cultural forms.
This panel queries craft’s diverse relationships with technology, but also with history and knowledge production, drawing out the implications for labor, economy, and identity both individual and group. Issues related to “enskilment” (Ingold 2000), value, cultural appropriation, and environmental change will be addressed alongside broader questions. What insight does applying an anthropological lens to contemporary craft economies and the discourse of craft yield? What do we learn from looking at narratives that posit specific spaces of production, time-honored practices, and hand-wrought objects as stalwart in battles over environmental degradation or resisting the onslaught of mass-produced, “foreign” goods? How well do portrayals of craftspeople and artisans as resisting contemporary consumerist logics or technological change reflect the realities of local economies and needs of communities? What impact does the adaptation of recent or foreign technologies and knowledge (including social media and internet marketing) have on notions of “tradition” and authenticity or narratives of artisans as selective innovators? Connecting with anthropological and historical literature associated with craft, this collection of papers engages with communities, objects and practices to better understand contemporary shifts and longer trajectories.