Performing Craft in Mexico examines how Mexican artisans and diverse actors perform as translators of aesthetics, politics, and history through the field of craft. The contributors build from historical and ethnographic archives and direct engagement with makers to reassemble an expanded vision of artisanal production and the complicated classifications that surround Mexican popular art-making—from the Anglo term “craft” to the Latin term “artesanía.” This book also homages Dr. Janet Brody Esser’s research on the Blackmen masquerades of Michoacán, exploring African history and presence in Mexico. The contributors provide wide-ranging insight into the agency, history, and contemporary world of Mexican makers and other entangled actors in the field of craft.
Michele Avis Feder-Nadoff is an independent scholar, founder of Cuentos Foundation, and assistant editor of the Journal of Embodied Research.
Chapter One: Introducing Things: Between the Lines
Part One: Translating Insides and Outsides, Materials and Gestures, Nomadic Aesthetics and Community
Chapter Two: Artisans and Crafts in Post-revolutionary Mexico
Chapter Three: The Case of the Rebozo: Stereotypes about Mexicanidad and Femininity in the Art of the Nineteenth Century
Chapter Four: Performative Materiality, Masks and Masking in Teloloapan, Guerrero
Chapter Five: Indigenous Aesthetics and “Glocalization”: Recursive Agencies and Reflexivity
Chapter Six: Identity, Female Empowerment and Resistance through Textile Crafts in the Purépecha Region of Mexico
Chapter Seven: The Triqui Huipil as a Representation of Territory: Women Immigrants between Oaxaca and San Luis Potosí
Part Two: Fortleben: Calling Forth, Living Forth
Chapter Eight: Pondering Fortleben: An interview with Janet Esser
Chapter Nine: Winter Ceremonial Masks of the Tarascan Sierra, Michoacán, Mexico—Selected Excerpts
Chapter Ten: Afterword
This wonderful and powerful collection of essays celebrates the contributions of the Mexican art historian, Janet Brody Esser, and reframes Mexican artisans, craftspersons, makers—those who make the things that collectors, tourists, and everyday people use, appreciate, and even take for granted—in terms of translations and performances. The volume challenges us to rethink who the makers are and the ways things take on new meanings as they travel from their makers into faraway hands and homes and collections. Moreover, the authors, here, are critically self-conscious and self-reflective of how they study and translate these makers and their things and performances in ways that shed new light on maker creativity and agency in important political and cultural contexts.
Performing Craft is a daring new vision of artisanal production, and its possibilities for translating meaning through time and across communities. The authors orient their investigations with the groundbreaking work of art historian Janet Esser and a mode of inquiry that links performance and crafted object. Writing both against the term ‘artesania’ and translating it creatively, the authors restore the distinctiveness of diverse Mexican makers and performers and the life projects they realize through their craft, words, and artistic commitments. Collectively these contributions offer a new vocabulary for studying the cultural force, collective purpose, and individual vision Mexican artisans make possible through their work.
This timely volume is an important contribution to the growing literature on craft, and specifically craft in Mexico, where craft has long been enmeshed with the problems, pressures, and possibilities of nationalism, ethnicity, migration, gender, and global capitalism. Of special importance is the recognition and documentation of the African presence in Mexico. As becomes clear, craft makes worlds, and the people who make, use, imagine, and remember things crafted are the bearers of infinite repositories of knowing.
Michele Feder-Nadoff’s book is a remarkably diverse collection of articles, essays, and interviews about indigenous Mexican artisanry and performance. Many of the contributors are Mexican scholars whose important research has rarely been available in English. The book includes provocative discussions of complexities associated with the terms ‘artesanía’ and ‘crafts’ and an extensive examination of the life and work of Janet Brody Esser, an influential art historian who specialized in mask making and dances in Michoacán.