Journal of Material Culture

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examine some aspects of the anthropology of techniques, a relatively under- studied ... We hope that the selected papers will stimulate a renewed interest in ... ogy as practices or performances rather than as ready-made things and ... nology or material culture is studied as resulting from and as trans- ..... CONCLUSION.

Journal of Material Culture

Editorial Myriem Naji and Laurence Douny Journal of Material Culture 2009 14: 411 DOI: 10.1177/1359183509346184 The online version of this article can be found at:

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University College London, UK Abstract The editors of this special issue on ‘“Making” and “Doing” the Material World’ examine some aspects of the anthropology of techniques, a relatively understudied branch of anthropology, which considers the embodied and cognitive engagement of human beings in their lived material world. They suggest that the use of new theories of embodiment, cognition and performance allows for a consideration of the role of the senses, perception, emotions and materiality in the formation of knowledgeable, gendered subjects. They argue that the Francophone and Anglophone traditions in the anthropology of techniques are complementary, despite their divisions (between and within them). Key Words ◆ embodiment ◆ materiality ◆ performance ◆ subjectivation ◆ technology


The multidisciplinary workshop ‘“Making” and “Doing” the Material World’ held at University College London (UCL) in January 2008 was the starting point of a new dialogue between the material culture group at UCL’s Department of Anthropology and the members of the Technologie Culturelle group (Francophone scholars spread over several institutions). Subsequently, a series of workshops and seminars1 were held in Marseille, at the Museum of the Quai Branly in Paris, and at UCL. A special issue of the French journal Techniques & Culture (no. 52) will be published in parallel with this one. We hope that the selected papers will stimulate a renewed interest in the study of technology. They answer some of the questions raised during the workshop and work towards a definition of techniques or technology Journal of Material Culture Copyright © The Author(s), 2009. Reprints and permissions: Vol. 14(4): 411–432 [1359–1835 (200912) 10.1177/1359183509346184] Downloaded from at UCL Library Services on October 10, 2012


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that allows us to further expand our understanding of materiality (the physicality of the material world). Under the heading of ‘Making and Doing’ we argue that technology encompasses both production and consumption or use, making and unmaking,2 creation and destruction. CONTRIBUTION OF FRANCOPHONE ANTHROPOLOGY OF TECHNIQUES: PERFORMED MATERIALITY

A human universal technique has been defined by the Francophone Tradition of Anthropology of Techniques (FTAT)3 as efficacious action on matter; technology is the study of techniques (see discussions by Coupaye and Warnier, this issue). In this issue, techniques encompass any mundane material activity or performance, such as craft production (Portisch), religious or magical practice (Coupaye, Richards, Warnier), but also the cultivation of crops (Coupaye) or clothing in the context of war (Richards). In their separate contributions, the four authors engage with and criticize the main conceptual apparatus of the Francophone School of Techniques, which we present in this editorial. One of the main specificities of the FTAT is its definition of technology as practices or performances rather than as ready-made things and their emphasis on the physicality of matter. They argue that objects cannot be considered outside their manipulation: they only come to life through human action on them (Cresswell, 1978, 1983, 1996, 2001; Haudricourt, 1987[1968]); Lemonnier, 1992, 1993; Leroi-Gourhan, 1943, 1945). Technology or material culture is studied as resulting from and as transforming performance (Haudricourt, 1987[1968]: 76; Pillon and Vigarello, 2007; Sigaut, 2007). This approach to materiality and the body means that the symbolic, although also the object of analysis (i.e. Lemonnier, 2004; Mahias, 2002a), is not the starting point of their exploration of human relationship to the material world. Arguably, a step towards such an emphasis on bodily engagement with materiality has recently been made in British archaeology (e.g. Boivin, 2008; Knappett, 2004, 2006). In his two volumes L’Homme et la matière (1943) and Milieu et techniques (1945), Leroi-Gourhan provided a detailed description of materials and substances from the perspective of their manipulation. His originality was to link the properties of materials (chemistry, flexibility, fluidity) with the properties of performing bodies (muscular energy, forces) whether human or animal. Rather than the more conventional ethnographical classification into types of tools or artefacts, he classified techniques according to types of action (grasp, percussion) and other means of transforming matter (fire, water, wind, force) (see Audouze, 2002; de Beaune, 2004). This dynamic perspective (Haudricourt, 1987[1968]: 58) on the dialectical relationship between materiality and performance anticipated

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theories of psychologists (Gibson, 1979) and neuroscientists on affordance, i.e. the fact that the perception of the properties of things activates predetermined motor schematas (Jeannerod, 1994). Given the FTAT’s explicit endeavour to examine technology as performed and their dynamic view of techniques where matter, actors, tools and knowledge, including representations (i.e. Lemonnier, 1992, 1993) are dialectically related, their unwillingness to take these concerns further to the level of embodiment theories (Johnson, 1987; Lakoff and Johnson, 1980; Lave and Wenger, 1991; Sternberg and Wagner, 1994; Suchman, 1987; Varela et al., 1991), including situated cognition theories is surprising. Ingold’s approach, with his emphasis on skills, his advocacy for a detailed study of the properties of materials and his concern for situated practice, shares many of the preoccupations of the Cultural Technologists (Ingold, 1988). It is, however, from a phenomenological and Gibsonian ecological perspective that he argues that materiality is ‘in-the-making’ rather than given (Ingold, 2000a, 2000b, 2007). The situated action theory represents a major shift in learning theory from traditional psychological views of learning (mechanistic and individualistic) to a view of learning, as well as cognition, as a continuous construction within a dialectic between people, context of activity and the situation. Situated cognition theorists4 differ according to whether the focus is on the subject, the environment or the ‘structural couplings’ of the actor with the situation, but they all share a concern with the role played by the material environment in the construction of knowledge and cognition and a rejection of the disembodied stance of cognitivism. Ingold (2000a) considers the process and practice of making, skills and intelligence as emerging from a progressive and continual adjustment of practitioners’ perception and body movements in relation to their environment. Questions concerning the working of the mind–body complex and the relationship between designing and making, as much as between representation and action, have been more the focus of Anglophone anthropology (Ingold, 2000a, 2000b, 2001; Keller, 2001; Keller and Keller, 1996; Marchand, 2007). Ingold’s concern with embodiment and materiality does not go as far as considering the implication of such a processual approach with regard to the construction of subjects. Seeking to collapse the dichotomy between subject/object, mind/body, cognition/emotion (Csordas, 1990), however, offers a paradigm for embodiment that focuses on the self, using both Bourdieu’s (1977) habitus and Merleau-Ponty’s (1962) phenomenology to analyse ritual practices. Yet his focus on perception and habitus does not include a consideration of the materiality of performance. We argue later that Warnier’s approach to embodiment provides a way of bringing together subjects and technology in their continual and dialectical coming into being. Although this is suggested in much of the FTAT literature, it is however rarely applied on the micro-level of detailed ethnographies.

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The FTAT’s most known and misunderstood notion in anthropology is that of chaînes opératoires (Lemonnier, 1992; see Coupaye, this issue). It is an epistemic tool used during fieldwork to collect, organize, verify and then to analyse data (Audouze, 2002: 287; Dobres, 1999: 124). It constitutes a visual narrative that supports and complements technical but also phenomenological and thick ethnographic description (Geertz, 1973). As a cyclical set-up of choices and constraints (Lemonnier, 1993) that denies temporal linearity (Douny, 2007b; Sillar, 2000), the chaîne opératoire enables us to highlight aspects of a people’s social and ritual life such as beliefs, taboo and moral values, conceptions of space, and time and the transmission of knowledge. ON THE CONCEPTS OF ‘MAKING’ AND ‘DOING’

Our approach draws on both the UCL material culture researches and those of the FTAT, which represent two different traditions of working with material culture and technologies but share an interest in everyday material practices (Bray, 2007). First, we would like to provide a bridge between what has been coined the Francophone versus Anglophone study of materiality (Bray, 2007; Faure-Rouesnel, 2001). The complementary and dialectical relationship of production and consumption (see Mackenzie, 1991) was highlighted by Leroi-Gourhan (1943, 1945), who viewed the techniques of making as being part of a system that included techniques of acquisition (hunting, husbandry, agriculture) and techniques of consumption (food, clothing and dwelling). Gell’s (1988) definition of technology is not far from that of Leroi-Gourhan5 but he distinguishes between technologies of production, technologies of reproduction and technologies of enchantment. Fine and Leopold’s (1993) system of provision provides a way of exploring the connections between production and consumption. Second, we want to bring together Lemonnier’s (1992) definition of ‘technological’ action as one that involves ‘at least some physical intervention, which leads to a real transformation of matter in terms of current scientific laws of the physical world (p. 5), and that of Pfaffenberger (2001). Pfaffenberger noted that ‘what interests the anthropology of technology concerning techniques is the interpenetration of material and social factors in the creation, use, maintenance, and disposal of “artefacts” (technically modified objects)’ (p. 15,516). Our argument is that a praxeological (Warnier, 1999, 2001, 2006) and phenomenological approach allows us to extend the exploration of materiality beyond the dichotomy production/consumption, given/unfinished materiality (Ingold, 2007). Warnier’s praxeology encompasses both the performative (efficacious action on matter) and the sensory and emotional. Informed by FTAT, Anglophone and Francophone anthropology

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of the body, recent research in cognitive and neuroscience (Julien and Rosselin, 2009) and Foucault’s (1987[1984], 1994[1980–8]) subjectivation and techniques of the self, the article by Warnier (and the Matière à penser group, MàP) brings into the FTAT the subjective, sensual and emotional dimension of the subject–object relation (see Diasio, 2009). We will describe this approach more extensively later. To this, we add a phenomenological dimension (Jackson, 1983; Tilley, 1994) because we feel that knowing the world through the body’s senses plays an important role in the experience of matter and substances, and provides indications about people’s conceptions of society and the natural environment (see Thomas, 2006, for an exposition of the complexity of a theoretical approach to phenomenology and material culture). In this issue, Portisch warns against a phenomenological approach that, in trying to avoid the body/mind dualism, may in fact reproduce it. However, while we see phenomenology as ‘being’, we consider praxeology as ‘making’ and ‘doing’. Hence, we place both approaches in a dialectic relationship; that is, through ‘making’ and ‘doing’, we create ourselves. Phenomenology, according to Thomas (2006), may also provide a way of ‘moving beyond the conventional focus on production and consumption’ by means of an ‘investigation of the haptic qualities of objects’, including mass-produced ones. He argues that, through the subjection dimension of embodied experience of the material world, phenomenology may also help explore ‘moods, attunements and emotional states’ (p. 57). Furthermore, phenomenology, in association with the notion of affordance (Gibson, 1979; see Knappett, 2004, 2005), particularly complements the investigation of the properties of materials and the body, as advocated by Leroi-Gourhan and Ingold. Indeed, the dynamic engagement of ‘agents’ and matter implies that, on top of particular properties, ‘every artefact embodies a particular sensory mix’ (Howes, 2006: 166) which is culturally determined but also individually felt. This is shown by Dreyfus and Dreyfus (1998: 104–5) who argue that Merleau-Ponty’s intentional arc covers the three ways our bodies determine how things show up in our world (‘innate structures, general acquired skills, and specific cultural skills’). Finally, in addition to the ‘making’ (corresponding to the manufacturing process and the ‘object-coming-into-being’, Ingold, 2000a), Douny (2007b) proposes considering the neglected aspects of the ‘doing’ which examines the process of using a finished object. She argues that ‘making’ and ‘doing’ are intertwined in everyday life and complement each other. Extending the study of materiality beyond production or use to include its maintenance, recycling, disposal and destruction, she further argues for a consideration of how ‘making’ and ‘doing’ are part of a cycle which includes also the ‘un-making’ or ‘un-doing’, e.g. the consumption of food leading to (human) waste.

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FTAT’s processual or performative approach to technology can be situated in a tradition of theorizing that analyses embodied practice as shaping people and society (for a recent summary on performance and material culture, see Mitchell, 2006). Although he does not emphasize the embodied aspect of practice, Miller’s work (1985, 1987) exemplifies the relevance of Bourdieu’s concept of practice in relation to material culture. Bourdieu’s notion of habitus as the reproduction of social norm does not, however, give enough space to agency and social change. The theory of practice and habitus as developed by Bourdieu (1977) was influenced on the one hand by Mauss and Leroi-Gourhan, two important thinkers on technology, and on the other by the philosophy of phenomenology (despite Bourdieu’s disavowal of it). Two precursors of FTAT, Leroi-Gourhan and Haudricourt were themselves students of Mauss and were influenced by his Techniques of the Body (1979[1936]). By ‘body techniques’, Mauss refers to the ways people use their bodies in any given society: bodily postures, demeanour, movements and gestures (see Warnier, this issue). Although it has been argued that both Bourdieu’s thought (Sterne, 2003) and Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological philosophy (Crossley, 1996, 2004) are relevant to the study of techniques, both of these authors are rather absent in the Francophone tradition of technology. Warnier’s praxeological approach addresses this gap. Despite his rejection of phenomenology’s emphasis on consciousness, Warnier’s Foucauldian approach considers action, the senses and perception as part of the embodied and material processes of subject formation. Another perspective that avoids the pitfalls of Bourdieu’s notion of habitus, despite being heir to the long tradition of theorizing practice set by Bourdieu, and influenced by ethnomethodologists and anti-essentialist feminists (Morris, 1995), is that of performativity (Butler, 1990). Put simply, Butler conceptualizes gender as the materialization of continuous or repeated embodied and discursive practices which the subject finds imposed on itself but which it may also manipulate and negotiate. Thus Butler provides a definition of identity as dynamic and strategic, accommodating resistance and change. Feminist theory and gender studies provide valuable perspectives when examining how performed material culture contributes to defining a man or a woman in a given society (see, for example, Chamoux, 1981; Mahias, 2002b; Mellström, 2004; Wajcman, 1991, 2000). This approach can be extended to include a consideration of the role of technology in shaping other aspects of subject formation, such as age, ethnicity and social status. In their extensive analysis of the transformation of matter at the hands of efficacious practitioners, cultural technologists have avoided 416 Downloaded from at UCL Library Services on October 10, 2012

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the pitfalls of analysing the body as representation or symbol; but they have been less concerned with how the materiality of matter can affect the materiality of the body. Body techniques are more than expressions or an outcome of social norms: they are used to shape the self in unconscious as well as strategic ways. This is one of the contributions of Warnier and the MàP group: they have foregrounded a consideration of materiality’s agency on subjects by arguing that the body is not just a tool affecting the material world, it is also modelled by materiality. This means that one cannot limit issues of learning and knowledge acquisition to technical skills alone, but must investigate thoroughly through thick ethnographies, the way the body itself is shaped by the material world and how it plays a central role in the construction of our relation to others and self (see also Portisch, this issue). FTAT cultural technologists have argued for a study of everything observable about the human body, from adornment and dress through to body modification (Haudricourt, 1987[1968]: 112; Leroi-Gourhan, 1945). Unfortunately, this area has been little studied by them in recent years. Feminist scholars have contributed detailed ethnographies on the issue of body alteration (dieting, anorexia, body building, cosmetic surgery, body piercing and tattooing) mainly in relation to body image, notions of beauty and medical technology. Feminist theorists consider the materiality of the biological, anatomical, physiological body as the ground for emotions, experiences and desires (Balsamo, 1996; Barad, 2003; Bordo, 1993; Butler, 1990, 1993; Davis, 1995; Grosz, 1994). They show how the transformation of bodies affects subjects in their emotions and identity. On the other hand, however, what is missing in these studies, which are often concerned with subject/object boundaries and issues of prosthetic relations, is materiality as a discrete focus of ethnography (Küchler and Miller, 2005). In addition, if neither the relationship to the body nor the relationship to materiality are universal, then anthropology becomes crucial in developing a dynamic appreciation of local/emic understandings of these relationships.





A material perspective that emphasizes movement, perception and emotions as intrinsically interrelated opens a space for a consideration of how objects, materials or substances not only extend the capacity of the subject and economize their energy (Bril, 2002; Leroi-Gourhan, 1943, 1945; Pillon and Vigarello, 2007; Sigaut, 2007) but also how things are perceived as part of one’s body. With the concept of incorporation (Julien, 1999; Julien and Rosselin, 2005, 2009; Rosselin, 2006, 2009), Warnier and the MàP group (but see also Sigaut, 2007) provide precisely an embodied and micro-level perspective of the dialectical relationship between subject 417 Downloaded from at UCL Library Services on October 10, 2012

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and object in the dual process of structuration/objectification (Miller, 1987; Tilley, 2006). The ‘material dimension of socialization’ that constitutes this concept of incorporation/excorporation (Diasio, 2009), updates Mauss’s body techniques with recent psychology and neuroscience research on the ‘image of the body’ (Schilder, 1935) or ‘bodily schema’ (see Warnier, this issue). ‘Bodily schema’, both a neurophysiological and a symbolic construct, refers to the psychology of bodily feedback, that is, the sensation one has of one’s bodily position, shape and movement. To perceive the environment is to perceive oneself as moving through it (Gibson, 1979; Merleau-Ponty, 1962). In other words, if objects have material properties (shape, volume, weight), so do our bodies, and we all have a perception of it, however inaccurate or unconscious. The highly plastic ‘bodily schema’ implies potential actions that can be realized by a given subject (Rosselin, 1999: 108). Thus, a focus on the constraining and enabling dimension of technology allows for the exploration of how affordances (of both materiality and the body) in symbiosis with other parameters, such as the brain and sensory-motor capacities, also shape cognitive processes (Naji, 2009b). The malleability of the embodied mind seems to be more a concern of Anglophone anthropologists (Downey, 2005, 2007; Keller and Keller, 1996; Marchand, 2008; O’Connor, 2005; Portisch, 2007), who have contributed exciting ethnographies on how technology dynamically shapes the mind and body. Each embodied performance implies the development of specific cognitive and perceptual abilities whether more visual (Cornu, 1991; Delaporte, 2002; Downey, 2007; Goodwin, 1994; Gowlland, 2009; Grasseni, 2007a, 2007b), tactile (Oakley, 2008), olfactive (Candau, 2000; Jeanjean, 2006), vestibular (Boutroy, 1999; Faure, 2000; Julien and Rosselin, 2006; Pálsson, 1994; Potter, 2008), or a combination of touch and sight (Roustan, 2003; De Fornel, 1993; Hoarau, 1999), or touch and hearing (Mellström, 2004). T ECHNOLOGY AS C ONSTRAINING B ODY –S UBJECT




The body is a materiality, which collides with other physical materialities (Warnier, 2002). Acting on matter implies acting on the self (body and mind), that is: dealing with one’s own resistance when mastering one’s own gestures and movements (Julien and Rosselin, 2002; Warnier, 2002, 2004). In reminding us of the subjective effects of the materiality of the body on the self, the MàP also allows us to look at issues of pain, physical strain and discomfort, and at pleasure and satisfaction, both physical and cognitive. Apart from medical anthropology (Scarry, 1985; ScheperHughes, 1993; Seremetakis, 1994), pain has been little analysed in relation to technology. The disciplining and agentive dimensions of technologies mould a subject that is not just mastering its body and learning skills, but

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also constructing value through experiencing particular sensations and feelings (Naji, 2009a). A subject formation approach, which considers the meeting between feeling and perception about the body and body representation as ideal models and as lived experience, allows for a less essentialist description of practitioners, and for considering change and resistance. Winance (2001, 2006, 2007) in her research on people suffering from neuromuscular diseases, using an actor-network theory approach, shows how pain is part of a hard and lengthy work of adjustment of the person to the wheelchair that transforms both human and technological entities. Winance (2006) shows that, through this process of adjustment, the subject gains both new possibilities of action and new (dis)abilities. She argues that such an analysis leads to a particular conception of the person as made up through his or her relations to other entities (human and nonhuman). T ECHNIQUES





In the past decade or so, several seminal studies in French have offered excellent ethnographies on the question of socialization or incorporation of social norms through material and embodied performance – although they did not directly draw on the study of technology. They address the issue of mastery over the body’s resistance (Julien and Rosselin, 2009; Wacquant, 1995, 2004). Kaufmann’s (1997) subtle exploration of the internalization of social norms through the practice of household maintenance (tidying, cleaning, ironing, etc.) and their associated pleasure and discomfort, is a good example of ethnographic use of cognitive science studies and situated cognition theories. In modifying their bodies, subjects alter their identity and emotions: they may do so as a strategic action as in the ‘body works’ (see Gimlin, 2007, for a review of this concept) performed in the Western context of work, sport, hygiene or beauty (Davis, 1995; Wacquant, 1995), a technique for shaping appearance to fit cultural standards, or as a way of gaining moral value through repeated drilling (Kondo, 1990; Mahmood, 2005). We are here at the centre of the Foucauldian notion of the techniques of the self which can be described as a work of transformation of the self by the self. Warnier analyses the body as the object of material efficacy, as the site through which the subject is touched, affected and shaped by his or her engagement with the material world. He has shown that this exercise of power over the self is material, both in terms of material culture and the body to the extent that it involves body techniques performed on materiality. For technical efficacy to become socially efficacious, MàP argues, it needs to pass through the efficacy of the self or techniques of the self, which play a central part of the process of subjectivation or subject construction (Julien et al., 2002). In his article, Richards

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(this issue) shows that a Durkheimian approach can account for the efficacy of technology in disciplining of the body through material and symbolic transformations. T ECHNOLOGY





Cultural technologists have long emphasized the social context of techniques and have shown how ‘the manipulation of materials and bodily forces, conventions and representations’ (Gosselain, forthcoming) are a ‘privileged channel for the construction of social ties’ and a ‘way of living together particular to a group, a social organization and a cultural system, partially constructed and reinforced, and recalled to those who share it’ (Lemonnier, 2004: 174). This describes accurately the concept of community of practice and legitimate peripheral participation (Chaiklin and Lave, 1993; Lave and Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998; Wenger et al., 2002). Originating in situated cognition theory, this concept provides us with a dynamic way of exploring not only the individual and subjective but also the social, intersubjective and intercorporeal dimensions of subject formation.6 A community of practice is a particular group, where members are mutually engaged in a joint enterprise, using a shared repertoire of skills, discourses and artefacts. It describes the process through which making and doing are not just about the production or use of objects but also about the learning of values and norms through participation in socio-cultural practices. Knowledge is a way of being in the world, where ‘agent, activity, and world mutually constitute each other’ (Lave and Wenger, 1991: 33). Learning, then, is not just about expressing one’s identity but is also the process whereby learners are active creative participants in developing and maintaining identity through sharing a sense of cultural knowledge. Things (or ‘technologies of practice’) are intrinsically linked to cultural practice and social organization, and play a central role in mediating and carrying knowledge (Lave and Wenger, 1991). Techniques therefore constitute a ‘system where the coherence between ways of doing, ways of thinking and ways of being are continuously recreated by actors’ (Gosselain, forthcoming). Although few cultural technologists have exploited it (Geslin, 2003; Gosselain, 2008; Gosselain and Livingstone Smith, 2005), this paradigm promises to be a tool for investigating more dynamically questions of learning, appropriation and transmission (Gosselain, forthcoming), particularly cognitive processes taking place during collective or joint performance, such as communication, imitation or memory, in a way that takes into account the possibility of conflict and competition as well as strategies, agency and resistance. Accounts of cultural technologists focusing on the role of transmission, imitation or memory in learning or practice tend to be less concerned with cognitive and neurological details (with the exception of

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Martinelli, 1995, 1996, 1998). Marchand (2007, 2008, forthcoming 2010), in particular, explores the questions of imitation, communication, creativity, appropriation and the learning of skills through thick ethnographies informed by recent research in the cognitive and neurosciences. He shows how the incessant intersubjective experiencing of spatiality implies exchanges with others and, thus, an understanding of existing properties in the self, people and materials (Marchand, 2008). Community of practice can be combined with the Foucauldian notion of networks of action to argue that action on matter is also action on others (i.e. through public performance), where the subject is also the object of the actions of others (Hoarau, 2009; Julien and Rosselin, 2006; Naji, 2009a). Another area that needs further investigation is the ‘sociality’ of affordance (Knappett, 2004, 2005). T ECHNIQUES





We suggest that techniques can serve in the exploration of the social world and dynamics in a community of practice that locates itself on a particular space–time continuum. In other words, techniques constitute a means of uncovering a people’s history, life trajectory or biography, as well as social relations (Douny, 2007b). Hence, an examination of the manufacturing process of things and their daily uses can inform us of the way in which people perceive, conceive and create the world in which they live and in which the society reunites with the cosmic realm (De Coppet and Iteanu, 1995). From this perspective, the study of techniques enables us to highlight what we define as a cosmology, here understood as a gathering of worldviews that consist of a dynamic network of shared knowledge defining a society’s socio-political order and ethics, as well as its attitudes towards nature (Lovin and Reynolds, 1985). Worldviews, which are relative, relational and always ‘in the making’ (Barth, 1987), enable individuals to achieve particular goals and ideals (Lambek, 1993) and serve to guide people in their world and their choices for stabilizing their surrounding environment (Matthews, 1991). Worldviews are produced through daily embodied practice (Bourdieu, 1990) or human agency (Weiss, 1996) and express relationships between self, nature and society (Douny, 2007b). In other words: through processes of transformation of the world, knowledge about the world is shaped and contained. In fact, worldviews may be embedded, materialized and worked on through processes of containment (Warnier, 2006: 188–91, 2007, 2009). Douny (2009) defines containment as the making of symbolically or physically bounded protective spaces that, in stabilizing or fixing people, create a sense of ontological security (Giddens, 1991); this ordering of one’s world through containment allows one to attribute meaning to it through continuous experiences of the world (Douny, 2007b). Hence, containment

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can be said to be a process of gathering (Heidegger, 1962[1927]), designating the way people act upon, engage with, dwell within and organize the world for and around themselves through daily embodied techniques that create ontological boundaries. UNMAKING AND UNDOING

Following Pfaffenberger’s (2001:15,516) suggestion that the study of maintenance and disposal of objects should be a part of the programme of the anthropology of technology, we now propose concentrating on the ‘unmaking’ and ‘undoing’ of the material world. By this, we mean the processes of maintenance (or lack of maintenance), repair, disposal, divestment, destruction and recycling of things. We are interested in how, at the micro-level of subject–object relationship in everyday life practice, ‘undoing’ or ‘unmaking’ also participate in the construction (or destruction) of the body, self and society. All these states/stages of materiality (including doing and making) can be represented through a (not necessarily linear) chaîne opératoire illustrating the life-cycle of things (Kopytoff, 1986) as they are made and unmade, done and undone. This life cycle is not static and its boundaries are shifting; artefacts circulate between the various categories composing the sequence. As will be shown in the next section, some artefacts may belong to several categories. U NMAKING We understand ‘unmaking’ not just to include intentional ‘destructive’ human acts upon the materiality of objects leading to their ‘end’ but also unintentional actions or events, such as natural disaster. However, destructive acts remain ambivalent since they can in themselves open up a constructive space of engagement (Latour and Weibel, 2002). ‘Unmaking’ implies that there is no complete renewal or way back based upon the evaluation of the state of materials and its functioning. This ‘coming-to-an-end’ of objects also implies the parallel fracturing of societies and damage to the individual self, as in the case of memory loss and trauma (Edkins, 2003; Hoskins, 1998). Some examples of destruction are notably found in studies dealing with the technology of war, or the destruction of national and religious heritage through violent political acts hidden behind powerful religious symbols (Bell, 2008; Chapman, 1994; Højbjerg, 2002, 2005; Meskell, 2002; Sarro, 2009). ‘Unmaking’ as de-containment (Douny, 2007b) also applies to things that have become damaged or are dysfunctional, often through technological failure, and thus no longer serve their initial purpose: they leak, or are unbounded, emptying themselves of their contents. This loss of substance (which applies also to the human body) may lead to chaos and disorder. Finally, ‘unmaking’ can include cases where things are left to rot or to return to

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a stage of waste, as in the case of Malanggan effigies left to decay as symbolic representations of the dead (Küchler, 2002). Ruins have been described as material decay in the absence of maintenance and repair (Edensor, 2005), to be subsequently recovered by the heritage industry. R EPAIR



Repair and maintenance of things (Graham and Thrift, 2007) can fit either in the ‘making’ or the ‘recycling’ category. The notions notably abound in the heritage literature dedicated to the curation, preservation and conservation of things and their restitution to the local community (Bedaux et al., 2003; Sully, 2007). On a domestic level, it can also include the daily tasks of women in the maintenance of the household (Kaufmann, 1997) as well as the repair and maintenance of technologies, such as cars (Dant and Bowles, 2003). U NDOING



We see ‘undoing’ as a process of divestment (Gregson et al., 2007), dissembling, unpacking or separating, involving some physical transformation but with no damage or radical change to the original material. For instance, the recycling of things such as textiles in India (Norris, 2004), the disposal of home possessions or dispossession (Buchli and Lucas, 2001; Lucas, 2002) offer cases of ‘undoing’. In other words, ‘undoing’ is a stage of reduction rather than disintegration. The repair of a technical object can also be considered as a process of dismantling something into its separate parts, to identify the damaged ones in order to rebuild a working object. Recycling is more drastic, radically or integrally transforming materials that are considered as waste into a new form of materiality. An example of this, in the context of Dogon society, is when a building is dismantled and its materials (stones and wooden beams) are used to recreate a new house. This strengthens lineage relationships, solidarity and cultural transmission between the owners of houses belonging to the same family (Douny, 2007b). ‘Undoing’ increases the potentiality of recovering and re-using the whole or the parts. The relationship to waste matter (human or animal) and its treatment is another case in point, drawing together aspects of gender, caste, ethnicity or economy, etc. (Douny, 2007a; Jeanjean, 1999, 2006, 2009a, 2009b; Mahias, 2002a). CONCLUSION

Francophone researchers in the Anthropology of Technology have endeavoured explicitly to situate technology as a product of embodied engagement with matter and of specific social, cultural and historical

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contexts in a way that anticipated the new theories of embodiment. These concerns need to take on board recent conceptual shifts that have taken place throughout anthropology (of the body, emotion, knowledge) and other social sciences (feminism, gender studies, theory of the mind). There is scope, however, in the FTAT’s emphasis on performed materiality (and with the help of Warnier’s praxeology) for an exploration of how the construction, use, maintenance and disposal of things occurs concomitantly with a production of subject and worldviews from an embodied, phenomenological, or skill-based perspective. The contributions of the FTAT have not yet been fully exploited and, in combination with the Anglophone concern for cognitive sciences in anthropology (Downey, Ingold, Küchler, Marchand, Were), will no doubt bring out further promising developments. Acknowledgments We would like to thank Michael Rowlands for his support in the organization of the workshop and all the speakers who presented papers: Joshua Bell, Ludovic Coupaye, Tim Dant, Lars Fosberg, Dorian Fuller, Olivier Gosselain, Susanne Küchler, Paul Lane, Jerome Lewis, Trevor Marchand, Paul Richards, Michael Rowlands, Volker Sommer, Chris Tilley and Jean-Pierre Warnier. Finally, we thank the reviewers, as well as Geoffrey Gowland, Céline Rosselin, Michael Rowlands and Olivier Gosselain, for their feedback on an earlier version of this paper, and Jan Geisbusch and Frank Smith for the copyediting.

Notes 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.


The organizations include CREDO, GDRI Anthropology and History at the University of Provence, EHESS, ULB (Belgium), Université Paris X Nanterre, Université Paris I-Sorbonne and UCL, Department of Anthropology. Weiss (1996) uses the terms of ‘making’ and ‘unmaking’ to describe how the Haya of Northwest Tanzania make and unmake their world and themselves through consumption practices. To gain an idea of how diversified this tradition is, see for example Lemonnier, 1993; Latour and Lemonnier, 1994. Situated cognition theory emerges from philosophy (pragmatic and phenomenological), sociology (Chicago School, ethnomethodology and social phenomenology), cognitive anthropology, psychology and the engineering sciences. He defines technology as a ‘roundabout’ way of securing some desired result, thus encompassing ‘those forms of social relationships which make it socially necessary to produce, distribute and consume goods and services using technical processes’ (Gell, 1988: 6). Sigaut (1992) defines the sharing of experience between the self (ego), the real and others as the ‘triangle du sens’.

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