Prof Trevor Marchand's Inaugural Lecture: The Pursuit of Pleasurable Work: an Anthropology of Craft and Craftspeople
I am currently Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology, with expertise in the subjects of architecture, craftwork, skills, and learning.
After completing studies in architecture (McGill 1992), I received an 18-month Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Award to carry out field research on the traditional mud-brick masonry practices and ornate wall decoration in the Hausa Emirate of Zaria, Northern Nigeria. The study employed an ethnographic approach for investigating architecture, craft skills, and apprenticeship training. These topics, along with embodied learning and knowledge, 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 resulted in a first monograph, Minaret Building & Apprenticeship in Yemen (2001). With funding from the MBI Al-Jaber Foundation, I am presently curating a new exhibition on Yemen: ‘Architecture that fills my eye’, which will be accompanied by an educational programme (July – September 2017, London).
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).
Ongoing 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 Sidibe); 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-term exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, Mud Masons of Mali (2013 to 2017, co-curated with Mary Jo Arnoldi). Details for the exhibition can be found here, and the film (in four parts) can be viewed here
In 2005 I was awarded a 3-year ESRC Fellowship to study craft knowledge and vocational training in England alongside fine woodwork trainees (RES 000-27-0159). Again, I employed an apprentice-style method in order 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. Research 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 long fieldwork yielded a detailed ethnography of training and craftwork (The Pursuit of Pleasurable Work, monograph forthcoming), and a number of 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, in the flow of practice. Included in the resulting 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.
Ultimately, my continuing research with craftspeople 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. I left my post at SOAS in 2015 in order to dedicate more time to research, writing, and other creative activities. In addition to my forthcoming exhibition on Yemen’s architecture, new research has included a commission from Craftspace to conduct fieldwork with Ugandan-British artist Andrew Omoding. My study documented the artist’s creative processes and problem-solving strategies. The results are featured in an exhibition, Radical Craft, which tours the UK for 20 months in 2016-17, and in my film The Art of Andrew Omoding (2016), which can be viewed here
Professor Trevor H J Marchand - Craft Knowledge, Learning and Apprenticeship
PhD Students supervised
Karin Ahlberg, "They are destroying the image of Egypt": Tourism, Egyptian nationhood and infrastructures of image making.
Robert Simpkins, Playing in Kōenji: making street music in a Tokyo neighbourhood (working title).
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)
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. (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.