Handwerkliche Arbeit als soziale Praxis. Eine ethnologische Studie über das Handwerk und die handwerklichen Praktiken der endogamen Handwerker*innengruppe der inǎḍǎn des Aïr in Niger


Valerie Nur

Research Area:


My PhD project investigates the social and material aspects of crafting performed by the Inadan Tuareg in Niger.

The aim is to approach the craftspeople's work not only as activity of crafting but also to understand that kind of work in the context of Tuareg culture within the Inadan are integrated as an endogamous professional group. Hence, three dimensions intersect: The craftspeople's work as dealing with materials, the craftspeople's work as organized in an endogamous professional group (i.e. in the family) and the craftspeople's work in Tuareg culture.

The work of crafting is related to the group of Inadan so extensively that a member of that group is considered as craftswoman/ craftsman, even if she/ he does not carry out „the Inadan's work“. Nevertheless, most Inadan learn to craft in childhood at home and from older family members – whether or not they live on craft eventually.

The phenomenological approach allows to grasp the full scope of action in physical, material as well as social and cultural spaces with its hub in the workshop. Artefacts (tools and outcome) emerge in social relations and are inevitably embedded in culture. As I consider artefacts as medium and materialised signs of common ideas, of successful (or failed) comprehension, fabricating things is examined in the context of relations to purchasers, the family and the wider group of Inadan. Thus, crafting is communicative and social action, although it seems to be a sole individual undertaking of dealing with material at a first glance.

The study of craftspeople's work as dealing with material focuses on the engagement of the body, the mode of practice (Arbeitsweise), i.e. the How of crafting, rather than on stocktaking of raw material, tools and outcome that are in the hands of the craftspeople anyway. Most investigations on West African crafting so far have focused on the material in process and treated work as production of things solely, instead of looking at what the artisan is actually doing. The PhD project thus turns around the angle beginning with the working man him/herself.