Body005
Knowing by doing: manual work and social resilience

Convenors:
Thomas McKean (University of Aberdeen)
Stream:
Body/Embodiment
Location:
A214
Start time:
23 June, 2015 at 10:30
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

Knowing by Doing explores the significance of this 'way of knowing' to contemporary individuals and projects that re-purpose manual work traditions and the human interactions by which they are transmitted to create community, social responsibility, and sustainability.

Long abstract:

What role does skilled manual craftwork have to play in today's digital, virtual world? Sentient makers of objects (Glassie's volitional practitioners) and active, plastic materials interact, or 'correspond', with each other (Ingold) to generate form and meaning. Making is thus a powerful way of knowing, or indeed of thinking (cf. Jones, Glassie, Ingold, and others). 'Knowing by Doing' goes one step further, exploring the significance of individuals and projects that re-purpose manual skill traditions (work with wood, metal, clay and stone) and the human interactions by which they are transmitted, to create community, social responsibility, and sustainability. Many of these projects are artistic/aesthetic ventures, focused on (re)producing an object for its own sake. Some are overtly 'political', seeking identity, Herder's Volksgeist, through work traditions. But many are built around a 'social good' paradigm, calling explicitly for inclusivity, diversity, community impact, and the creation of social capital, giving the under-served a voice and confidence in themselves and their communities. In contrasting individual and cooperative craft-based projects, we will explore how work creates social cohesion, which in turn builds and reinforces the individual's strength and resilience. Revivifying manual technologies goes far beyond a nostalgic longing, or creating reproductions of outdated objects. The panel aims to examine the extent to which this kind of learning - this kind of knowing - reconnects us with the foundational characteristics of our humanity, the aptitudes towards teamwork, mutual responsibility, self-reliance, and problem solving, that made us capable of creating human society in the first place.