Monday, November 17, 2014

Ways of knowing: Anthropological Approaches to crafting experience and knowledge – book overview

Ways of knowing: Anthropological Approaches to crafting experience and knowledge - Edited by Mark Harris (2007) published by Berghahn Books.

Brief summary in previous blog but now undertaking a deeper read into pertinent chapters for several articles I am working on.

The book has 14 chapter. The 3 chapter summarized in greater detail here are all from Part 3 – the rethinking embodiment section.

Chapter 8 by Professor T.Marchand ‘crafting knowledge: the role of ‘parsing and production’ in the communication of skilled-based knowledge among masons. The proposal in this chapter is the concept of embodied practice and manual movement as a form of communication. Hence, to study how trades people work, there is a need to understand how they go about doing work, often with very little verbal interaction. Yet, a multitude of nuanced activity is ‘parsed’ between workers. Activity includes how ‘assistants’ anticipate the needs of masons as they go about building structures and how groups of masons, working on one section of a building, coordinate activity to contribute to the final objective. Each goes about their activity individually but each is also cognizant to what other workers are up to. Therefore, the activity is choreographed without verbal interaction but communication through body language, task completion and shared understandings of the quality and functional objectives.

Chapter 9 with Dr. C.Grasseni on ‘communities of practice (CoP) and forms of life: towards the rehabilitation of vision? Grasseni uses ethnographical studies with farmers to understand the importance of vision in judging the characteristics of beef cattle and dairy cows. Grasseni’s thesis is how vision of quality indicators in animals, is learnt mainly, through long engagement with farming practice. The children of farmers are theorized as being submerged into farming CoPs from a young age and are able to recognize the physical characteristics of the animals under their care. The term ‘skilled vision’ is used to encompass the range of farming visual skills. These skills are used not only with animal husbandry but across the various farming work tasks. Many tasks include sociomaterial interactions, for instance with the landscape, weather and tools / machinery of farming. 

Chapter 10 by Associate Professor G.Downey presents ‘seeing with a ‘sideways glance’: visuomotor ‘knowing’ and the plasticity of perception. This interesting chapter, uses the ethnography of the Brazilian martial art, capoeira, to argue the thesis that expertise in martial arts, goes beyond the physical actions when ‘fighting’ occurs. There are other physical skills (gaze, walk, balance) and dispositions (tenacity, resilience, patience) learnt as practitioners hone their fighting skills.

These 3 chapters contribute to understanding the aspects of learning which have been difficult to pin down and describe. In particular, the role of observation in learning physical skills and judgement related to specialised activities. Also, the unspoken communications of skilled practice and how learners have to learn the 'language' if they hope to make progress. 

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