This study focuses on the potential of objects in craftwork activities, specifically in wooden boat building. The monograph addresses two polar trends in scientific conceptualisations of craftwork: eliminating objects from skill-focused analyses of crafts and eliminating the cultural and historical potential of objects in craftwork. This study aims to move beyond general interpretations of craft revival using cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT), with the core principle of the approach being a focus on concrete activities, specifically object-orientedness. The notion of an object of activity helps to ground motivation in the objective world and facilitates an understanding of why people do things. In this study, the notion of an object is used as an entity for anchoring crafts — as a way to understand concrete cases of craft revival. CHAT was enriched with the approaches of actor-network theory and the epistemic approach proposed by Karin Knorr Cetina. The ethnographic data for the study come from three wooden shipyards in Finland, Russia and India, collected between 2012 and 2014. All the shipyards were producing similar usable wooden vessels at the time. The potential of the object in craft is that the object of activity instantiates differently in various concrete cultural and historical circumstances, specifically through cultural and historical features accumulated across time and space. Study of the object of activity offers the possibility to compress human efforts into a certain point of time and cultural moment, and thus, to expand activities across temporal and cultural boundaries. The unifying factor of the object in craft resides precisely in its diversity, in its cultural and historical features or differences, formed by specific local circumstances. The primary contradiction in the craft of wooden boat building is the movement between adhering to old ways (following the ancient craft or even replicating history) and responding to new practices (building a boat that satisfies market demands). This constant back-and-forth movement becomes visible in the everyday work of craftsmen as certain tensions and struggles arise. Wooden boats mediate the relationships both within and across communities of craft workers. They are a way to make history and culture tangible and alive, transferring it further into the future.
Link to Helsinki University event.
The link to the thesis in HELDA - Digital Repository of the University of Helsinki.
Liubov Vetoshkina's profile in TUHAT.