Accepted Paper:

'Sitting in the loom' - Apprenticeship, social enskilment and the co-production of empathy in a Ghanaian workshop  
Niamh Jane Clifford Collard (SOAS, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on an ethnography of work and learning in a Ghanaian weaving workshop, this paper explores apprenticeship as a set of relations that, in foregrounding social enskilment within both fieldwork encounters and a community of practice, opens up spaces for the co-production of empathy.

Paper long abstract:

Drawn from a project which explored young Ghanaian craftsmen's livelihood and learning strategies, this paper looks at how apprenticeship and the routine practices of working side-by-side engender specific forms of social enskilment and open up spaces for the co-production of empathy.

Closely engaging with the emergent processes of social and material attunement which together constitute craft learning, the ethnography traces the development of my own fieldwork apprenticeship from a somewhat functional methodological entry-point, to a form of empathic co-production. Looking at the everyday practices of working side-by-side, and the contingent forms of learning which emerged from such routine encounters in the field, attention will be paid to how my interlocutors and craftwork mentors employed apprenticeship as a means of making legible to me both their aspirations, and the challenges they faced. As such, apprenticeship offered a framework within which young craftsmen could direct my attention to that which was most important to them. Working alongside and learning with them compelled me to attend to their hopes, desires and fears in ways which enabled me to reflect upon, reframe, and ultimately broaden, my own understanding of what 'apprenticeship' and 'learning' means.

The paper thus considers apprenticeship as a means of accompanying, sitting with and working alongside others in ways which not only impart craft knowledge, but also, and perhaps most importantly, are enmeshed with empathy and processes of social enskilment. It is hoped that such a relational focus both enriches and broadens our understanding of what apprenticeship can offer anthropology.

Panel P070
Apprenticeship: Illuminating Persons and Places through Shared Practice and Performance