In a study published in Society & Natural Resources, centre researchers argue that craftsmanship facilitates a unique connection between people with nature. Through observation of a Samí duojar, or crafts artist, and a fisher in the Stockholm Archipelago the authors seek to reveal the tacit and embodied knowledge of local natural resource users. Photo: V. Mellegård

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HUMAN-NATURE CONNECTION

How craftsmanship connects people, nature and knowledge

What we can learn from a Samí crafts artist and a fisher from Stockholm about connections between local ecological knowledge, work, technology and sustainability

Story highlights

  • Researchers argue that craftsmanship facilitates a unique connection between people with nature.
  • They shed light on the interdependencies and intimate connections between knowledge, people and nature
  • Their study revealed three ways in which craftsmanship forges a particular type of connection between people and nature

A PARTICULAR TYPE OF CONNECTION: In an increasingly globalized and technologically driven world, many become disconnected to the natural habitat on which they depend.

In a study published in Society & Natural Resources, centre researcher Wijnand Boonstra and former SRC colleague Viveca Mellegård argue that craftsmanship facilitates a unique connection between people with nature.

Through observation of a Samí duojar, or crafts artist, and a fisher in the Stockholm Archipelago the authors seek to reveal the tacit and embodied knowledge of local natural resource users.

In doing so, they shed light on the interdependencies and intimate connections between knowledge, people and nature.

Sensory experience induces a profound appreciation for the function of natural environments and their meaning for wellbeing.

Viveca Mellegård, lead author

Three ways to connect

Mellegård and Boonstra accompanied the fisher on several trips and observed how the duojar fashioned a pair of boots from reindeer skin. The researchers took pictures to capture and understand the daily routines of their respondents.

Their study revealed three ways in which craftsmanship forges a particular type of connection between people and nature:

    • Embodied skill: a form of intimacy or familiarity with materials and nature that is aimed to accomplish work. The duojár and fisher know nature through their work for which they experience nature through their senses.
    • Work with tools that afford the use of skill: craftsmanship is enabled through tools that require skill, but can be repaired and maintained.
    • Co-production: a mutual dependency between people and nature which can counters experiences of disconnection or alienation. The duojar points for example to the importance of honoring the animal by making sure all materials are use, while the fisher will feed seagulls or chicken with fish leftovers.

    Both craftspeople are highly skilled in using a knife. On the left, the Sámi duojár skins reindeer legs. On the right the fisher fillets on board his boat at the same time as looking at the horizon. Photos: Viveca Mellegård.

    Craftsmanship can facilitate sustainable development

    The authors believe there are reasons to assume that craftsmanship can facilitate sustainable development:

    “Sensory experience induces a profound appreciation for the function of natural environments and their meaning for wellbeing,” says Viveca Mellegård.

    Skill, knowledge, and experience also encourage repurposing and reconfiguration of materials and products, which may lead to more sustainable consumption and less-intensive resource use.

    Adds Boonstra: “The lens of craftsmanship reverses our perspective on the relationship between people and nature. Rather than humans dictating the use of natural resources, it is nature which sets terms and conditions that the local users agree to through their craftsmanship.”

    Methodology

    The main method used by the authors here is visual methodology which includes participatory observation, interviewing and photographing. The first author shot approximately 2000 digital photographs and video clips for both cases. A range of wideshots were used to capture the craftsperson in context. Close-ups were also used to capture details such as the positioning of fingers, eyes fixed on a point in the distance, or how tools are employed. A selection of photographs was then made for the photo elicitation using several criteria, including the ability of the photograph to expose the knowledge and skills involved in the craft and how they had been acquired, and its ability to enhance the author’s understanding of the social and ecological contexts and history.

    Semi-structured interviews using the selected photos and notes made from participant observation were then performed with the duojár and the fisher as well as with other people closely connected to or involved in craft practices, such as family members. The interviews were then coded using an inductive approach to see if patterns emerged about components of craftsmanship. More refined coding followed in a second cycle where coded material was related to and contrasted with definition of tacit knowledge and skill from scientific literature.

    Link to publication

    Related info

    Mellegård, V., Boonstra, W. 2020. Craftsmanship as a Carrier of Indigenous and Local Ecological Knowledge: Photographic Insights from Sámi Duodji and Archipelago Fishing. Society & Natural Resources, DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2020.1729911

    Link to publication

    For more information about the article, please contact Wijnand Boonstra:

    Wijnand Boonstra's research investigates the social-historical dynamics of primary resources, and how it impacts the long-term biocultural sustainability of sea- and landscapes.

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