Prof Trevor Marchand's Inaugural Lecture: The Pursuit of Pleasurable Work: an Anthropology of Craft and Craftspeople
I am an Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology, independent researcher and consultant, and Action Learning facilitator. My subject expertise is in space, place and architecture; craft knowledge, skill learning and apprenticeship; and embodied cognition communication.
After completing studies in architecture (McGill 1992), I received an Award from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to conduct independent field research with mud masons in the Hausa Emirate of Zaria, Northern Nigeria. The 18-month project examined traditional building practices, craft skills and apprenticeship training – topics that have remained central to my work as an anthropologist.
My PhD in social anthropology (SOAS 1999) was grounded in ethnographic and historical data collected during a 13-month apprenticeship with minaret builders in the South Arabian city of Sana'a. That study resulted in a first monograph, Minaret Building & Apprenticeship in Yemen (2001). With the start of Yemen’s Civil War in 2015, and with funding from the MBI Al Jaber Foundation, I curated an exhibition on the country’s extraordinary architectural heritage, titled Buildings that Fill My Eye. Accompanied by a new edited volume and an educational programme, the exhibition opened at the Brunei Gallery in London (2017) and subsequently travelled to the Museum of Oriental Art in Turin (2017) and the Pergamon Museum in Berlin (2018, attracting an estimated 250,000 visitors).
In 2001 I resumed fieldwork in West Africa, this time labouring and apprenticing with a team of mud-brick masons in Djenné, Mali. The study was supported by the British Academy, and resulted in a second monograph, The Masons of Djenné (2009). The book was recipient of the Elliot P. Skinner Award (Association for Africanist Anthropology), Melville J. Herskovits Award (African Studies Association), and Amaury Talbot Prize for African Anthropology (Royal Anthropological Institute).
Further research with Djenné masons generated a special issue of the IAI journal Africa, titled Knowledge in Practice (2009, co-edited with Kai Kresse); a first documentary film, The Future of Mud: a tale of houses and lives in Djenné (2007, co-produced with Susan Vogel and Samuel Sidibé); and a major exhibition at the Royal Institute of British Architects titled Djenné: African City of Mud, accompanied by a public lecture series (2010). More recent studies with the mud masons resulted in a second documentary film, Masons of Djenné (2013), and a long-running exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, Mud Masons of Mali (2013 to present, co-curated with Mary Jo Arnoldi). The film (in four parts) can be viewed here: [Part One], [Part Two], [Part Three], [Part Four].
In 2005 I was awarded a 3-year ESRC Fellowship (RES 000-27-0159) to study craft knowledge and vocational training among fine woodwork trainees in England. I again employed an apprentice-style method to investigate skill learning and practice and to document social relations, professional aspirations, and the economic challenges to succeeding as an independent furniture maker in the UK. Fieldwork was carried out over a 2-year period at the Building Crafts College in Stratford, East London, earning me a City & Guilds Diploma in fine woodwork. The project yielded a detailed ethnography of training and craftwork (The Pursuit of Pleasurable Work, forthcoming), and numerous publications that include comparative analyses with craftspeople in Arabia and Africa. The study also allowed me to advance a theory of embodied cognition and communication grounded in Dynamic Syntax theory and cutting-edge research in the neurosciences. I organised a lecture series and a workshop on ‘learning and knowledge’ that resulted in a special issue of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, titled Making Knowledge (2010).
In 2013 I took up a one-year British Academy mid-Career Fellowship to further my studies with woodworkers. This time I focussed on the complex and evolving relationship between the human brain, hands and tools; and, relatedly, on bench-based problem-solving with tools and materials, and in the flow of practice. Included in the outputs is the edited volume Craftwork as Problem Solving (2016) and the documentary film The Intelligent Hand (2015), which is featured on the RSA Inequality in Education Network website and can be viewed here.
My ongoing research with craftspeople ultimately aims to expand popular definitions of ‘knowledge’ and promote greater appreciation for skilled work. In 2014, I was awarded the Rivers Memorial Medal by the Royal Anthropological Institute for my contribution to the discipline; and elected to the College of Lecturers of the Association for Preservation Technology International (APTi).
I left my post at SOAS in 2015 in order to dedicate more time and resources to research, writing and creative work. Recent research included fieldwork with Ugandan-British artist Andrew Omoding, documenting his creative processes and problem-solving strategies. The results were featured in an exhibition, Radical Craft, which toured the UK for 20 months in 2016-17, as well as in numerous publications and my film The Art of Andrew Omoding (2016), which can be viewed here. Research with artists and dancers has taken me into the field of embodied mathematizing.
Included among the many committee positions and administrative posts I have held, I served as Publications Officer and Film Officer for the Association of Social Anthropologists; was a long-time Trustee of the Firth / Radcliffe-Brown Fund; an Arnold Rubin Book Award jury member; and a Council member of the Royal Anthropological Institute, as well as a member of the RAI Publications and Research Committees. I was the Anthropology Research Tutor at SOAS for 5 years and supervised 18 PhD students to completion.
I am currently a Trustee of the Paul Oliver Vernacular Architecture Library (POVAL) at Oxford Brookes University; an advisor for the British Museum’s Endangered Material Knowledge Programme (EMKP); an Honorary Member of the European Federation for Architectural Heritage Skills (FEMP); Lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America tours; and a Consultant for ICOMOS on the recovery and reconstruction of (world) heritage. I am also introducing Action Learning methods in the anthropology of work and business.
Professor Trevor H J Marchand - Craft Knowledge, Learning and Apprenticeship
Previous PhD Students
Diana Ibanez Tirado, Subjectivity, Temporality and Everyday Life in Kulob, Tajikistan
Anna Portisch, Kazakh Craftswomen and their Textiles
Patrick Meier, Urban Space and Identity Construction in Aleppo, Syria
Deborah Whelan, The Trading Store in South Africa
Philomeena Keet, Cos-Play and Youth Identity in Tokyo, Japan (with D. Martinez)
Leila Zaki Chakravarti, Gender and Factory Workers in Cairo, Egypt (with D. Kandiyoti)
Cleo Cantone, Women’s Space in the Senegalese Mosque (Art & Archaeology, with G. King)
Takis Geros, Christianity and Community in Damascus, Syria (with D. Martinez)
Kris Chapman, Participation & Performance in Japanese Martial Arts
Elena Moreddu, Sacred Space in Sardinia (Studies of Religion, with C. Zene)
Keiko Miura, Heritage & Conservation in Angkor, Cambodia (with A. Turton)
Alison Brody, Gender and Ethnicity in Thailand (with A. Turton)
Niamh Collard (*completed 2016, Bloomsbury Scholarship): Apprenticeship & work among Ghanaian weavers in Agotime
Jamila Dorner (*completed 2016, Haimendorf Scholarship): Transmission of bodily knowledge in South Indian dance
Cristiana Strava (*completed 2016, ESRC Scholarship): Urban space & meaning-making in a working-class neighbourhood of Casa Blanca
Gunvor Jonnson: (*completed 2015, SOAS Doctoral Bursary): Mobility & identity of female Malian traders in Senegal
Robert Simpkins (*submitted 2017, MEXT scholarships): Street musicians in Tokyo
Karin Ahlberg (*completed 2016, SOAS Doctoral Bursary): Othering: tourists, merchants & journalists in Cairo
I have taught a number of core courses in anthropological theory, two regional culture and society courses (Near & Middle East and West Africa), and I have developed specialised courses in Anthropology of Urban Space, Place & Architecture; Anthropology & Linguistics; Anthropology of Gender, Sexuality & the Body; and Media Production Skills.
The course on urban space, place and architecture is an outgrowth of several key research interests. It introduces various approaches to studying space and the built environment, and engages critically with the historic, social, and cultural constructions of these concepts. The principal aim is to challenge notions of ‘space’ as a reified entity that is conceptualised and inhabited in a universal manner, and to cultivate a more complex understanding of the processes by which humans manipulate, produce, and reproduce space and buildings – as the most visually significant manifestation of any material culture.
Before my departure from SOAS, I created a new course, Crafting the World, which introduces students to the study of skill and learning.
I was Undergraduate Tutor for anthropology (2002-2005) and Research Tutor (2008-20012 and 2014-2015). As convenor of the MPhil Research Training Seminar, I employed Action Learning principles and methods, which I continue to use in the supervision of my PhD students and in mentoring postdoctoral students and junior research associates.
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Marchand, Trevor H. J. (2018) 'Toward an Anthropology of Mathematizing'. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, special issue 'From science to art and back again: the anthropology of Tim Ingold', (43) 3-4, pp 295-316.
Marchand, Trevor H.J. (2012) ''Anthropologies to Come'. Part 4 introduction'. In: Fardon, Richard and Marchand, Trevor H.J. and Nuttall, Mark and Shore, Chris and Strang, Veronica and Wilson, Chris, (eds.), Handbook of Social Anthropology. London: Sage, pp 225-228.