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11.20  How to Be an Authorized Craftsman? Exploring the Contradictions of Heritage and the Sustainability of Craft Practices in a UNESCO-Designated Ceramic Centre

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9:00, Dimanche 5 Juin 2016 (30 minutes)

This paper will explore the case of Horezu pottery in relationship with craft continuity, history, and heritage. Through an ethnographic study of this craft practice, I will investigate the ways in which heritage narratives inflect the production, marketing, and consumption of craft objects. I will argue that heritage practices have a profound influence on the process of making, the resulting artifact, but also on the identities of the craft practitioners. 

In 2012, a Romanian pottery centre was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and is widely considered as one of the emblematic sites of traditional craft production. An anthropological investigation of the site demonstrates that often interpretations of the site by scholarly and heritage institutions fail to acknowledge the influence of historical changes on the centre, in particular in the period of state socialism when the pottery’s heritage was redefined and brought into practice through the creation of state cooperatives, craft fairs, and exhibitionary practices. I will examine how current pottery makers draw on craft models of the past to develop practice and craft identities today and demonstrate the stories that objects can tell about the temporalities and taskscapes of contemporary potters and evoke the emic experience of material history. Examining how practitioners mediate, appropriate, and negotiate the frameworks of practice becomes a way to rethink this craft practice, its past and future. 

Told in their ateliers, craftsmen’s stories of their experience of history, notions of time, and labour vary in significant ways from the authorized heritage discourse, cultural management programs, and narratives evoked in markets and museums. Stories collected in potters’ ateliers and houses show how lived history can shed light on a more tangible social symbolism and the categories guiding practice and framing situated knowledge. By showing the daily experience and metaphors of production (through techniques and patterns) and listening to voices on social categories, activities, instruments and rhythms of work, our view of the potters’ taskscapes becomes wider and interwoven into the fabric of discontinuities and tensions as significant as the official historical scripts and stories of harmonious transmission. The interpretations from below show that just as much as people make specific pots, the ceramic objects as well as their stories and spaces, make people. 

The last part of our paper will situate the work of the potter within the wider forces of new heritage infrastructures and practices on the ground. Folk pottery production emerges as a heterogeneous taskscape involving negotiations of meanings and identities as well as spatial, narrative, and material practices. The case of Horezu demonstrates the contradictions between heritage narratives that privilege traditional craft skills entangled with the ideas of authenticity, continuity, and rural Arcadia with contemporary craft practices and objects and the complex histories in which they emerged.

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