An Ethnographic Study of Blacksmiths through notions of Learning and Reciprocity


End date: 16 August, 2016 Project type: BSU Students' Master Thesis Project code: mdr13-1N2 BSU Countries: Nepal Lead institution: Aarhus University (AU), Denmark Project coordinator: Ram Chandra Neupane

Project summary

This ethnographic research study, conducted in Western Nepal, explores the learning of craftsmanship and the social relation among the blacksmiths of Majhigau. The research examines the nature of the learning of craftsmanship of blacksmiths through the notion of situated learning, developed by Lave and Wenger (1991), and investigates the social relation of blacksmiths with their neighbors and relatives through the notion of gift exchange, explained by Mauss (1990).
The study was based on the three months of participant observation, field note-taking and informal interviews. Strong notion of social discrimination prevail across the society, and it is soundly reflected during the participations in the social gatherings and interactions with the villagers. Blacksmithing is a skilled work of the Nepalese society and a way to manage the bread and butter for the blacksmith families.
In Nepal the traditional occupation of blacksmiths, is form of craftsmanship which is practiced in the domestic spheres and involve the collaboration of the family members. The apprentice practice the technical skills of blacksmithing during the workshop activities and learn to develop the social relation with their clients during the interactions in domestic and social spheres. The learning of blacksmithing is informal through the process of mimesis rather than instruction, so that, the role and the responsibilities of the apprentice increases according to the acquisition of the knowledge and skills of blacksmithing.
Blacksmiths of Majhigau practice the socio-religious ceremonies as the occasions to exchange gifts with their neighbors and relatives. Rice breads, fruits, clothes, ornaments, homemade alcohol, money are the common goods that are used to offer as gifts. The exchange of the gift reflects the love and care among the participants, their families and the respect of their social/family relation.

I would like to gratefully acknowledge the encouragement and support of my thesis supervisor Asst. Prof. Dr. Jakob Krause-Jensen. I really appreciate the time and efforts that he laid on careful reading of this study and his precious comments for the betterment of the thesis. I appreciate the support and encouragement of my honorable professors Karen Valentin, Sally Anderson, Gritt B. Nielsen, Hanne Kristin Adriansen of University School of Education (DPU), Emdrup,

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