Accepted Paper:

Fibrous values: an ethnographic study on fiber ontologies  

Author:

Annika Capelán (Independent Researcher)

Paper short abstract:

How does fibre enact value? This study is an intervention into how knowledge domains are bounded and how knowledge flows, transfers, is figured and transforms. It is an ethnographic experimentation into, in the first place, the reconfiguration of 'knowledge economies' as 'fibrous value', and secondly, into how 'fibrous value' may be used to destabilize knowledge boundaries like 'artistic' or 'scientific' knowledge practice.

Paper long abstract:

How does fibre enact value? This study is an intervention into how knowledge domains are bounded and how knowledge flows, transfers, is figured and transforms. It is an ethnographic experimentation into, in the first place, the reconfiguration of 'knowledge economies' as 'fibrous value', and secondly, into how 'fibrous value' may be used to destabilize knowledge boundaries like 'artistic' or 'scientific' knowledge practice. This demands tracing the work of fiber and its 'value comparisons' through different situations. The study is based on extended fieldwork in Europe, Central and South America. Woollen fibre is followed as it moves, for instance, through the South American Pampas that nurture the sheep, inside the sample tube in the laboratory where the fibre's quality is determined, and in a private art collection where it appears as a knitted work of art. Field notes are used as 'snap-shot descriptions' for the building up of an anthropological understanding. The study is aimed as a contribution to a discussion on how organic fluid ('natural') materialities might be used as methodological devices to trace how value ontologies are brought into being, co-exist, are maintained or wither away. It further aims to ethnographically flatten any hierarchical order of such co-present ontologies referred to a scientific or artistic which in turn may host assumptions about natural-cultural relations.

Panel P07
'Natura artis magistra': nature is the teacher of artful skill