Title

Crossthreads: Craftwork and Social Justice in a Guatemalan Context

Location

Hiawatha 3

Start Time

18-10-2014 10:30 AM

End Time

18-10-2014 11:00 AM

Session Type

Research Paper

Abstract

Key words: Craftwork, Guatemala, social justice

Craftwork in Guatemala is a construct appropriated for political purposes and tourism advertising as well as a means of making a living for many indigenous people of the southern highlands. This paper will present findings from a rapid (aka “quick”) ethnography (Handwerker, 2001; Millen, 2000) conducted in the summer of 2012 in Antigua, Guatemala a city where tourism, crafts, cultural identity and political stratification intersect in complex and symbolic ways. A team of six ethnographers carried out vendor, crafter and consumer interviews, mapped craft locations, visited the home of indigenous artisans and conducted craft object and craft advertising analyses over the course of four weeks in the field. Results from this study point to craft as a multidimensional occupational concept, closely tied to relationships, multifaceted, strategic - and at times contradictory - aspects of identity (Dickie, 2003) and complex questions regarding social justice (Frank, 2012). Crafters in Antigua are relied upon to attract tourists to the historic city as well as inconsistently censured for their sales practices and market locations (Little, 2004). Their relationships with local officials, artisans, vendors and one another echo the historical context of a country only recently emerged from civil war and the economic context of a country where 78% of indigenous people live below the poverty line. As a vocation, the production and sale of craftwork symbolizing indigenous traditions and patterns literally provides food, clothing and shelter for many highland families; when viewed as an occupation, craftwork in Antigua represents a much more nuanced concept, evoking questions regarding social justice in the context of stark social and economic inequality.

References

Dickie, V. (2003). Establishing Worker Identity: A study of people in craftwork. American Journal of Occupational Therapy 57 (3), 250-­‐261.

Frank, G. (2012): The 2010 Ruth Zemke Lecture in Occupational Science: Occupational Therapy/Occupational Science/Occupational Justice: Moral commitments and global assemblages. Journal of Occupational Science 19 (1), 25-35.

Handwerker, W. (2001). Quick ethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

Little, W. (2004) Outside of Social Movements: Dilemmas of Indigenous Handicrafts Vendors in Guatemala American Ethnologist 31 (1), 43-­‐59. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3805303 .

Millen, D.R. (2000). Rapid ethnography: time deepening strategies for HCI field research. In Proceedings of the 3rd conference on Designing Interactive Systems: processes, practices, methods and techniques (DIS ’00): Boyarski, D. & Kellogg, W.A. (Eds.). ACM: New York. DOI = 10.1145/347642.347763.

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Oct 18th, 10:30 AM Oct 18th, 11:00 AM

Crossthreads: Craftwork and Social Justice in a Guatemalan Context

Hiawatha 3

Key words: Craftwork, Guatemala, social justice

Craftwork in Guatemala is a construct appropriated for political purposes and tourism advertising as well as a means of making a living for many indigenous people of the southern highlands. This paper will present findings from a rapid (aka “quick”) ethnography (Handwerker, 2001; Millen, 2000) conducted in the summer of 2012 in Antigua, Guatemala a city where tourism, crafts, cultural identity and political stratification intersect in complex and symbolic ways. A team of six ethnographers carried out vendor, crafter and consumer interviews, mapped craft locations, visited the home of indigenous artisans and conducted craft object and craft advertising analyses over the course of four weeks in the field. Results from this study point to craft as a multidimensional occupational concept, closely tied to relationships, multifaceted, strategic - and at times contradictory - aspects of identity (Dickie, 2003) and complex questions regarding social justice (Frank, 2012). Crafters in Antigua are relied upon to attract tourists to the historic city as well as inconsistently censured for their sales practices and market locations (Little, 2004). Their relationships with local officials, artisans, vendors and one another echo the historical context of a country only recently emerged from civil war and the economic context of a country where 78% of indigenous people live below the poverty line. As a vocation, the production and sale of craftwork symbolizing indigenous traditions and patterns literally provides food, clothing and shelter for many highland families; when viewed as an occupation, craftwork in Antigua represents a much more nuanced concept, evoking questions regarding social justice in the context of stark social and economic inequality.