Prof. Lorna Unwin (IoE)
Anthropology of apprenticeship and vocation education, rural livelihoods, well being, craft work and material culture, Ghana.
Premised upon an understanding that apprenticeship is as much a process of learning to be in the world as a transferral or inculcation of vocational skills, my research is concerned with the ways in which the learning and craft practices of Agbamevo narrow strip weavers in Ewe-speaking Southeastern Ghana are bound up with the work of crafting and sustaining livelihoods. In a context where rising youth unemployment and state retrenchment are long-established trends and opportunities are limited, even for those with secondary or tertiary education, the issues of how meaningful and sustainable working lives are fostered beyond the auspices of formal training and salaried employment lie at the centre of this study.
Focussing on the craftspeople of the Agotime weaving workshop in Kpetoe, a town near the Togolese border in Ghana's Volta Region, and employing apprenticeship in the craft as my primary field-method, the project engages with the interplay between the practices of learning and making, the more broadly conceived work of sustaining livelihoods and the imaginaries of aspiration, success, prosperity and community as the crucial factors which structure, constrain and make possible the work of weaving. Fundamental to the insights which are developing during the course of fieldwork is a sense that socialisation into work and life through craft training forges subjects whose skills extend beyond the loom and into the realm of managing the complex challenges of the everyday.
Thus, it is hoped that this research will make a contribution both to the anthropology of this West African craft tradition, which hitherto has been studied mainly from an art historical perspective, and studies more broadly engaging with issues of vocational education and livelihoods.