Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Meanwhile, in Manhattan

This past Saturday a group of geographers and others gathered in the (we can only assume) airless environs of the 'Nassau A' conference room at the New York Hilton to discuss the 'Geographies of Craft and Crafting'. The session in the Annual Association of American Geographers conference ran from 8am to 6.30pm, and included papers on scrapbooking, urban homesteading, reskilling, slow farming, soft technology, performance art and yarn bombing. We're sorry that SiB? couldn't make the trip over to join in, and look forward to hearing a report on the proceedings. Clearly the (academic) age of craft has arrived (again?).

Session abstract: From provisioning (sewing, knitting garments, woodworking and ironmongery etc.) to communal forms of socialisation (quilting bees, knitting circles) to local markets (craft fairs, farmers' markets), crafts and crafting have been variously regarded: as peripheral (residual, non-capitalist) forms of production; as the locus of anti-capitalist politics; as an ideal model for cottage-scale entrepreneurialism; and, as the essence of vernacular material culture. When kept from public view, crafts have also long operated as a means of personal fulfilment, self-expression, domestic decoration and sometimes even to celebrate and commemorate notable events in the life of family or friends. As such, the practices and politics of craft encompass a wide variety of forms of social reproduction and have been at the centre of a range of social movements for centuries. A critical awareness of these politics and practices has also informed the cultural appreciation of craft in the creative arts, and its more traditional variant of 'folk art'. The emergence of 'third wave' crafting in the 1990s, and the meteoric rise of technologies and applications associated with it - from Etsy to DIY videos on YouTube - has seen the craft movement re-emerge as a social, economic and cultural movement of significance and scope. To date, however, there has been only limited work by geographers or other social scientists that has aimed to grapple with the complexities and contradictions of crafting. This session asks: What are the geographies - cultural, political, feminist, localist, aesthetic, economic, racial, urban, rural - of craft and crafting?

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