Welcome to Taking Stock: Anthropology, Craft and Artisans in the 21st Century

July 26 and July 27, 2012

Popular narratives of craft and artisanship find their way into people’s everyday understanding of global difference, as well as into national, local and individual constructions of identity. From computer hackers to rural textile printing to Bollywood costume designers, people engage artisanship and craft in ways that tell us something about their relationship to the larger economy and contemporary capitalism.

The cross-cultural comparison of artisans and craft can provide insights to critical questions in the social sciences and humanities. Is it possible, for example, to cast new light on the history of capitalism by asking what people mean when they mark something as a craft or identify themselves as artisans? How do assumptions regarding artisanship differ when we compare craft narratives from perspectives as strikingly different as hackers and traditional textile artisans who cannot prevent the labeling of their daily labor as representative of heritage and tradition? Finally, how can comparative work on craft across cultures and across classes both augment and complicate our understandings of local relationships to creativity and identity?

We propose to offer a forum in which researchers of craft and artisans can debate these questions, with the goal of compiling an edited volume from the papers and proceedings. Completed drafts of articles will be submitted by participants prior to the workshop for circulation and comment. Workshop sessions will then be devoted to debating and discussing the critical themes put forward in the articles.  These discussions will form part of the resulting volume, as the voices of our participants interweave the ethnographic material offered.

Support for the workshop has come from the Department of Anthropology and the Creative Media and Digital Culture Program at WSU Vancouver, with major funding supplied by the Wenner-Gren Institute for Anthropology.

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