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Craft, Labour and Cabinets of Curiosities: Rethinking the Body of the Artisan

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Peer-reviewed

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Article

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Abstract

jats:titleAbstract</jats:title> jats:pThis article asks how we should best historically situate processes of making and knowing in early modern luxury crafts. It focuses on the Augsburg merchant Philipp Hainhofer (1578–1647) and his celebrated cabinets of curiosities. The article methodologically argues for the need to cross-fertilize scholarship on ‘the body of the artisan’ (Pamela H. Smith) with the history of labour. The notion of the European ‘artisan’ involved in ‘making and knowing’ has unwittingly tended to conjure up the image of an unquestionably male and often autonomous practitioner soberly immersed in experiment. By contrast, the article argues that lived ‘bodies’ involved in making and knowing were diverse and subjected to far more disciplining and strain than has hitherto been highlighted. A culture of secrecy fostered isolation. Increased alcohol consumption interrelated with the cultivation of wit as intellectual and affective practice. The article considers how differences in social status and religious beliefs created tensions among these makers and pays attention to the gendered nature of these types of employment and the hidden global types of knowledge and labour upon which they depended. By focusing primarily on Hainhofer’s published and unpublished correspondence, the article argues against the generalized conception that artefacts emerged from a ‘flow’ between makers and materials and demonstrates how early modern craft labour can be situated in social, economic and cultural contexts. Material communities in the luxury crafts were characterized by systemic strain, conflicts and the need to find shortcuts, but also by pleasure, wit, resistance, tenacity and opportunities for conceptual thinking.</jats:p>

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Keywords

History of labour; craft; making and knowing; cabinets of curiosities

Journal Title

German History

Conference Name

Journal ISSN

0266-3554
1477-089X

Volume Title

Publisher

Oxford University Press (OUP)