Anthropology of Work Review

“First You Must Master Pain”: The Nature and Purpose of Apprenticeship

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Abstract

The goal of this study was to distill from a large body of literature on children learning crafts, such as pottery and weaving, the characteristics of apprenticeship as a distinct phenomenon. Currently, apprenticeship is considered indistinguishable from other, more informal, means of skill transmission. From the literature survey, 11 attributes were identified as belonging to the archetypal apprenticeship. The analysis then advances to consider the genesis or raison d'être for the apprenticeship. The argument is advanced that the apprenticeship is designed to simultaneously train novices in specific craft or trade skills while socializing them to join the social and cultural elite represented by master craftsmen. The article concludes by considering the role of apprenticeship in the evolution of schooling.

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