"From father to son": ideal constructs and founding practices regarding the transmission of artisan crafts (ironworking and farriery).
Lidia Calderoli (University of Modena (Italy))
Paper short abstract:
The notion of cultural transmission is discussed based on the work of blacksmiths in Lombardy, Italy as an example. The question put forth being 'What is the potential need, be it cognitive or symbolic, of the different cultural constructions regarding transmissions of the trade?'
Paper long abstract:
The theme of cultural transmission is addressed in the context of the transmission of the vocation and the various types of apprenticeships for ironworkers in Lombardy (Italy), based on ethnographic research that focuses on the work of smiths and farriers. Despite the commonplace idea that the job was something that is passed on from father to son, be it in the handing down of the workshop and the trade, or in the apprenticeship of the art, the artisans that were interviewed stated otherwise. They explained their vision of a craft transmission which takes place in virtue of a break from the paternal workshop (learning amongst other artisans), and where the continuation of the trade could also be dependent on workers who do not belong to the original family. The question therefore arises whether the notion of a "craft handed down from father to son" only results from an outsider's point of view on the job. Is it somehow the result of an ideological view perpetuated by the artisans themselves? How does this vision resonate with the way artisans thinks about and practice apprenticeships? What needs are fulfilled by this representation of a "trade handed down from father to son"? Does it strengthen a professional identity that seems to be threatened by a persistent discontinuity? Research with smiths in Africa, and the dichotomy between the categories of 'native smith' and 'acquired smith', provide some food for thought for answering these questions.
Cognitive anthropology and cultural transmission; legacies and futures