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Migratory practices: introduction to an impossible place?

Ravetz, Amanda and Webb, Jane (2009) Migratory practices: introduction to an impossible place? ISSN 1837-445X

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Abstract

This essay serves as an introduction to five papers first presented at a conference held in the UK in 2006. Migratory Practices called on scholars and practitioners to report on crossings between the fields of anthropology, art, craft and design. The aim of the conference was to consider the under-acknowledged contribution of craft and design to the growing dialogue between contemporary anthropology and art. In this essay we consider some of the discourses that surround the term 'practice'. We originally used 'practice' in our conference title to acknowledge a possible relationship between the merging of theory and action implicit in this term, and the newly explicit crossings between anthropology, art, design and craft. Here we look further into this relationship, while also asking what other assumptions about human beings, art and making have underpinned apparent differences between the four fields. Taking two historical moments, we suggest that in western contexts, shared assumption about what it means to be in, and act upon the world, have at various times, underlain all four fields. During the nineteenth century art, craft, anthropology and design each conceptualised the relationship between human beings and the material world using categories such as 'object', 'technology' and 'skill'. In the twentieth century, these categories were increasingly blurred through the development of more processual perspectives on how non-human and human worlds interrelate; and at the beginning of the twenty first century, we find a concern for organic notions of skilled practice emerging across all four domains. Having established these historical connections, and after considering a number of concrete examples, we introduce the five papers. The projects they report on convey the rich insights that result when craft and design become active and visible participants in the art/anthropology debate.

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