21A.501J | Spring 2013 | Undergraduate

Art, Craft, Science


You will complete four short written assignments, as well as a final term paper during the semester.

Short Written Assignments

Two of these are lab-like write-ups of craft projects. Assignments 1 & 3 will together be worth 15% of your final grade. Assignments 2 and 4 will each be worth 15%.

Assignment 1

Without consulting any textual (including on-line) sources, type up clear and complete instructions for something you know how to make that you consider to involve craft practice and which doesn’t require super-specialized equipment (e.g., rudiments of knitting, a recipe for cooking or baking, origami folding, etc.). Bring a hard copy to class. (You’ll then exchange papers and implement someone else’s instructions.)

Assignment 2

Write a three-page essay reflecting on what week five’s readings on skill and tacit knowledge add to our historical discussions of the previous weeks; do not try to address every reading but instead focus on what you see as key arguments and insights.

Assignment 3

Implement the instructions you’ve received; using class readings (especially from weeks five and six) to guide your discussion, write a three-page essay on your experience. What theoretical concepts (e.g., tacit knowledge, embodied knowledge, habitus, etc.) can you usefully employ to illuminate your experience? And at the same time, how does your experience illuminate or sharpen for you some of the theoretical concepts we have been discussing? Try to speak to both of these questions, being sure to explain your thinking. In addition, how might you characterize the “expressiveness” of the instructions you were given, drawing on Sennett’s chapter, “Expressive Instructions.” Thinking back, do you have any thoughts about the instructions you yourself wrote up? Bring both the essay and the material results to class.

Assignment 4

Working in pairs, make mozzarella cheese! (you will be provided with rennet, citric acid, salt, and instructions; you’ll need to acquire a gallon of raw or pasteurized—not ultra-pasteurized—milk, a non-reactive [stainless steel] pot and long-handled spoon, long knife, colander, cooking thermometer [you’ll need to read 90–185˚F], and rubber gloves [optional]). Write up the experience as if it were a lab assignment, including tasting notes (“results”), and bring the remaining results to class! Include a discussion section (by drawing on class concepts and readings) addressing: what makes cheese-making a craft practice (if and when indeed it is)?

Final Term Paper

The final term paper, combining library / online research and analysis, will give you an opportunity to explore in depth central themes of the course. It should be 10–12 pages, and will be worth 40% of your final grade.

Research Paper Style Sheet (PDF)

Student Example

“Photography as Skilled Practice” (PDF) by Natalia Guerrero. (Courtesy of Natalia Guerrero)

This paper received an honorable mention award from MIT’s Anthropology Program for the 2014 James Howe Prize.

MIT Library Resources for Anthropology and Archaeology

MIT Library Resources for Science, Technology, & Society (STS)

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2013