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‘Writing practices’ and Writing ‘practices’: observation and struggle in fieldnotes about artisanal work

Cant, A. (2023) ‘Writing practices’ and Writing ‘practices’: observation and struggle in fieldnotes about artisanal work. In: Bose, C. and Mohsini, M. (eds.) Encountering Craft: Methodological Approaches from Anthropology, Art History, and Design. Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 146-160. ISBN 9780367459352

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To link to this item DOI: 10.4324/9781003026136


This chapter presents a series of curated fieldnotes as a way to investigate a tension that is implicit in all ethnographic research on craft and other skilled activities: that what one can observe, and therefore what one records in fieldnotes, is not directly or wholly the subject of study. Through excerpts from fieldnotes that I made during twenty-two months of ethnographic research with woodcarvers and painters in San Martín Tilcajete, in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, I show how the attempt to ‘get at’ artisanal practice through observation not only is a struggle for understanding and analysis but is also a struggle about how and what to write. Although many researchers have avoided the analytical impasse by utilising ‘apprenticeship’ as a research methodology and technique, the chapter shows that the problems of writing do not necessarily disappear when attention is focused on the researcher’s own practices rather than those of her research participants. The chapter concludes that although apprenticeship as a research method does afford an embodied and perceptive understanding of craft practices, the struggle of writing may signal something important about artisanal work that cannot be so easily captured in notes, photographs, film, or other media.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Social Archaeology
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:110671
Uncontrolled Keywords:research methods, ethnography, apprenticeship, craft, writing, field notes

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