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The ostrich eggshell beads craft of the Ju/’hoansi: A reflection on modern craft theories

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Western (modern) discourse often reviews craft in the light of industrialism and mass manufacturing, associating it with symbolic qualities that arise from the modern economy. This discourse highlights the dichotomy between machine-centred and human-centred production. Yet, some of these popular craft theories fall short when considered outside this context. For example, some foraging societies prioritize investment in social ties over material storage, offering additional perspectives on our study of craft. In this article, I present the case of the ostrich eggshell beads craft of the Ju/’hoansi, former hunter-gatherers from Southern Africa, which exemplify the plasticity of their practice in adapting to varying economic conditions. Using three case studies, I discuss different ways in which the Ju/’hoansi have commoditized and used their craft heritage as a comparatively stable economic foundation in a reality where some (modern) craft values, such as creative engagement, risk and unpredictability, can be found everywhere in their day-to-day lives.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Publication date: September 1, 2018

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  • The aim of Craft Research is to advocate and promote current and emerging craft research, including research into materials, processes, methods, concepts, aesthetic and style. This may be in any discipline area of the applied arts and crafts, including craft education.

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