Rethinking the 'community of practice' – the case of woodcarvers in Oaxaca, Mexico

University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon, PL4 8AA

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The 'community of practice' is a concept that has emerged at the forefront of scholarly and professional discussions of apprenticeship, collective learning and collaboration. A particularly influential notion in the fields of the material arts, decorative arts, and crafts, community of practice emphasises a more democratic approach to the development of skills and ideas.

Drawing on ethnographic research with Mexican woodcarvers from the state of Oaxaca, Dr Alanna Cant, University of Reading reveals that the community of practice approach can also obscure the practices and experiences of some artisans, due to the particular ethical prerogatives upon which it is based, especially ideas about craftsmanship. This ethnography suggests that to truly understand artisanal work, we need to also pay attention to those who may work without 'skill'.

Alanna is a Lecturer in Social Anthropology whose research focuses on the ways that the economics and politics of culture impact contemporary understandings of aesthetics, value, work, identity, religion and the past.

As part of this talk you are also invited to participate in a live Q&A session with the speakers.

This event is part of a new series of talks exploring cultural anthropology. By exploring the commonalities of humans across the world, we can better understand the nature and extent of our diversity as a species, and ultimately discover more about ourselves.

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