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Skilled Visions

Skilled Visions: Between Apprenticeship and Standards

Edited by Cristina Grasseni
Series: EASA Series
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 238
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  • Book Info
    Skilled Visions
    Book Description:

    Most arguments for a rediscovery of the body and the senses hinge on a critique of "visualism" in our globalized, technified society. This approach has led to a lack of actual research on the processes of visual "enskillment." Providing a comprehensive spectrum of case studies in relevant contexts, this volume raises the issue of the rehabilitation of vision and contextualizes vision in the contemporary debate on the construction of local knowledge vs. the hegemony of the socio-technical network. By maintaining an ethnographic approach, the book provides practical examples that are both accessible to undergraduate students and informative for an academic audience.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-566-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction Skilled Visions: Between Apprenticeship and Standards
    (pp. 1-20)
    Cristina Grasseni

    Anthropologists are ready to address a yet untapped problem that is ripe for discussion: the issue of the rehabilitation of vision. The aim of this book is to propose a new concept of vision that allows us to recontextualise the critique of visualism in the wider contemporary debate on practice and the construction of knowledge.Skilled Visionsexplores the training of vision in professional, scientific and everyday settings, providing a comprehensive spectrum of case studies in relevant contexts. Local and indigenous knowledge is profiled not as a given, but in its making and in its complex relation with the hegemony...

  5. Part I: Skilled Visions and the Ecology of Practice

    • Chapter 1 ‘To have the world at a distance’: Reconsidering the Significance of Vision for Social Anthropology
      (pp. 23-46)
      Rane Willerslev

      The recent conviction that anthropology, as a European project, is marked by an ocularcentric paradigm has caused much anxiety about vision within the discipline. Thus, during the 1980s, Fabian (1983: 106) famously launched a criticism against the dominance of the visual in social anthropology, arguing that the discipline’s ‘cultural, ideological bias towards vision as the noblest sense’ leads the fieldworker to adopt an objectifying and dehumanising relationship to the subjects studied, not unlike the naturalist watching an experiment. He was followed by anthropologists such as Stoller (1989) and Okely (1994), who sought to escape anthropology’s ocularcentrism by developing sensuous approaches...

    • Chapter 2 Good Looking: Learning to be a Cattle Breeder
      (pp. 47-66)
      Cristina Grasseni

      This chapter is based on an ethnographic study of contemporary cattle breeding in northern Italy, both in traditional settings in the mountains and in industrialised settings in the plains. My contribution is based on participant observation among dairy breeders: with breed inspectors, cattle-fair judges and artificial inseminators whose standard practices and expert judgement are integral to the socio-technical system of modern dairy farming. On the one hand, the agribusinesses in the plains boast a deep entrenchment of biotechnology with breeding ‘aesthetics’, i.e. with the educated capacity of perceiving the animal body in terms of ‘functional’ beauty. On the other hand,...

    • Chapter 3 Icons and Transvestites: Notes on Irony, Cognition and Visual Skill
      (pp. 67-88)
      Francesco Ronzon

      Field notes: Verona, Italy; 3/4/ 2003, around midnight, Art Discothèque:

      The man is tall, heavy and muscular. He is dressed in a long evening gown of black satin. The large décolleté reveals a shaved body. The look is refined by heavy make-up, a blonde wig and a flaming red lipstick. The eyes of the audience follow his movements on the stage. His walk is a little trembling because of the high-heeled shoes. Some people shout. Others laugh. When he arrives at centre stage, he starts singing an old pop melody with a wide smile, a loud falsetto and a heavy...

  6. Part II: Positioning Gestures of Design in Art, Architecture and Laboratories

    • Chapter 4 Seeing and Drawing: the Role of Play in Medical Imaging
      (pp. 91-105)
      Simon Cohn

      The well-worn phrase that to ‘see something is to know it’ has become a customary rejoinder, confirming the degree to which sight is not only valued as the primary sense, but is so elevated that it is taken to be synonymous with thought and intellect (Bal 2003). Such a deep-rooted assumption, accompanied by its countless metaphors, is being radically critiqued by literature that claims to be turning away from the armatures of modernity. For example, some of the anthropological writings that promote the value of other sensory experiences for ethnographic interpretation and representation also refute the very idea that reality...

    • Chapter 5 Learning within the Workplaces of Artists, Anthropologists and Architects: Making Stories for Drawings and Writings
      (pp. 106-124)
      Wendy Gunn

      Anthropology can contribute to an understanding of everyday working practices of artists, anthropologists and architects by situating both knowledge and skills within their social context. Artists’, anthropologists’ and architects’ working processes should be understood not as a series of abstract actions, carried on in isolation from the social world, but rather as the activity of persons situated within a field of social relations. This challenges assumptions that an interior process of thought controls action, and that thinking is separate from doing. I consider here the difference, and the relation, between direct and indirect forms of communication within fine art, anthropological...

    • Chapter 6 Maps and Plans in ‘Learning to See’: the London Underground and Chartres Cathedral as Examples of Performing Design
      (pp. 125-142)
      David Turnbull

      Chartres Cathedral and the London Underground map are iconic examples of good design and hence are ‘good to think with’ – to critically interrogate our ways of seeing with. They both exemplify the way maps and plans have become the key components of the scopic regime of modernity (Jay 1988). We have learned to see the world through the drawing of lines and bounding of objects (Pickles 2004). We have learned to control and manipulate the world through its representation in the form of two-dimensional, superimposable, mobile inscriptions (Latour 1986). Maps and plans have become ‘tools without which we cannot...

  7. Part III: The Social Schooling of the Eye in Scientific and Medical Settings

    • Chapter 7 CT Suite: Visual Apprenticeship in the Age of the Mechanical Viewbox
      (pp. 145-165)
      Barry Saunders

      ‘CT suite’ is the conventional term for the cluster of rooms, in English-speaking hospitals of any size, that houses a computed tomography scanner and its controls, a waiting area, a reading station.¹ But the term ‘suite’ is of interest for more archaic connotations: persons and practicesfollowingone another (suivant) in and among these rooms. The earliest suites were courtly entourages. What passes today through the rooms of the CT suite is still a drama of prestige and hierarchy, division of labour, mannered performance.

      Apprenticeship is of course more than ceremonial following. It is a political and economic arrangement in...

    • Chapter 8 Training the Naturalist’s Eye in the Eighteenth Century: Perfect Global Visions and Local Blind Spots
      (pp. 166-190)
      Daniela Bleichmar

      In an age that identified vision as the means to investigate and understand nature, perhaps the worst tragedy that could befall a naturalist was to lose his eyesight. This was the unfortunate condition of Georg Everhard Rumphius (1627–1702), a German doctor, naturalist and collector living in the Moluccas in the employment of the Dutch East India Company. Despite this considerable challenge, over the second half of the seventeenth century Rumphius amassed an incomparable collection of natural objects, many of which he sold to the Grand Duke of Tuscany as the basis of an impressive natural history cabinet. Rumphius also...

    • Chapter 9 Navigating the Brainscape: When Knowing Becomes Seeing
      (pp. 191-206)
      Andreas Roepstorff

      Images of brains with colourful areas lighting up are a well-known outcome of functional brain scans. These images serve several concurrent purposes. They are an integral part of the research process, since they allow for the representation of very large datasets in a visual illustration that may be explored dynamically. They are important signs of evidence for those scientific papers, which are the rationale of the research. Finally, they are also aesthetic objects, carefully tailored to look ‘nice’ both to the scientific insider and the scientific outsider. In none of these instances can the images be considered realistic photographs. Rather,...

  8. Epilogue Envisioning Skills: Insight, Hindsight, and Second Sight
    (pp. 207-218)
    Michael Herzfeld

    There is, Cristina Grasseni suggests, a besetting embarrassment about the centrality of the visual in anthropology; we see, we report on what we observe, but we do not like the implications of that commitment. It is time, she says, to do something about this unhelpful paradox. And so the authors in this volume recuperate the centrality of vision in anthropological understanding. Their effort is less one of discovering a new emphasis for the discipline as of forcing awareness of an entailment already engaged. To have thus reconfigured the discipline’s mode of attention is no small achievement, and in itself it...

  9. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 219-220)
  10. Index
    (pp. 221-226)