Introduction: Craft and Social Identity



Crafting and craft objects intersect with all cultural domains: economic, social, political, and ritual. Craft goods are social objects that assume an importance beyond household maintenance and reproduction. They signify and legitimize group membership and social roles, and become reserves of wealth, storing intrinsically valuable materials and the labor invested in their manufacture. Specialized craft producers are actors involved in the creation and maintenance of social networks, wealth, and social legitimacy. Artisans and consumers must accept, create or negotiate the social legitimacy of production and the conditions of production and distribution, usually defined in terms of social identity. The nature of that process defines the organization of production and the social relations of production that characterize the relationships between producers and consumers. Without attention to artisan identity, our reconstructions of production systems and explanations for their form and dynamic are destined to be unidimensional and unidirectional, lacking in key elements of social process and social behavior. It is this deficiency in the extant literature we hope to address in this volume.