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Engineering as a process of Beauty

Ewart, I. J. (2018) Engineering as a process of Beauty. In: Bunn, S. (ed.) Anthropology and Beauty: From Aesthetics to Creativity. Routledge. ISBN 9781138928794

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Anthropological writing has historically explored perceptions of beauty as an aesthetic response to a physical object, stemming perhaps from the discipline’s early links with collections of exotic curios and ethnographic museums (e.g. Phillips 1998). The fundamentally aesthetic approach to objects can be seen in Morphy and Perkins’ excellent compilation of essays (Morphy and Perkins 2007), which shows how anthropology rejoices in objects as caricatures of culture, and has done so since the century before last. But look carefully among the pages about representation and symbolism, style and form, and you may be lucky enough to take in the chapter by David Guss, ‘All Things Made’ (ibid: 374-386), which goes some way to bringing in the act of making to a bookful of gazing and thinking (see also Guss 1990). Fortunately there have been a number of scholars who have recently engaged in projects to bring production to the fore, including notably Ingold (e.g. 2013) and Marchand (2009; 2016), although they are severely outgunned by the aesthetes so I add here my own modest reinforcement. With a specific focus on engineering, my aim in this chapter is to suggest that the act of production is beautiful, as much as the artefacts that are made; that there is a sense of beauty in the care and effort of production, as well as, or even instead of, a visual pleasure. To an engineer, workmanship trumps aesthetics.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Science > School of the Built Environment > Organisation, People and Technology group
ID Code:67447
Uncontrolled Keywords:anthropology of engineering, engineering, anthropology, production.


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