Learning to weave, weaving to learn...what?

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This paper places the anthropology of learning in conversation with the anthropology of work by unpacking the interrelationship between the processes by which a skill is learned and knowledge about the skill, its possibilities and ramifications. The paper's ethnographic focus is the Labbai mat-weavers of Pattamadai town in South India, who are ambivalent about being weavers. It contrasts this ambivalence with the excitement that weaving generated in a development practitioner who sought to promote the weaving industry and who also learned how to weave. The same skill is approached differently by different kinds of persons: they understand and learn different things. Learning and knowing cannot be easily separated. By focusing on the various purposes and modes of learning, on the social production of knowledge, and on instances of communication and miscommunication, the paper explores the embodied and historicized production of knowledge by different kinds of person: the mat-weavers, the development professional, and, to a certain extent, an anthropologist. © Royal Anthropological Institute 2010.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S158-S175
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2010


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