Re-inventing artisanal knowledge and practice: a critical review of innovation in a craft-based industry

Blundel, Richard and Smith, David J. (2013). Re-inventing artisanal knowledge and practice: a critical review of innovation in a craft-based industry. Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation, 31(1) pp. 55–73.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/08109028.2013.770276

Abstract

This paper presents a critical review of the ways in which the specialised knowledge and working practices of craft-based industries have been transformed in the context of broader processes of industrialisation and global competition. The opening section makes the case for artisanal knowledge as a ‘Cinderella’ subject that remains important yet largely uncharted territory for innovation researchers. It is followed by a critical review of existing empirical and theoretical studies that have examined the reproduction and reinvention of artisanal knowledge. The review concludes that valuable insights remain obscured due to the way in which this literature is distributed across discrete disciplines with little evidence of cross-fertilisation or integration. Several common themes emerge, which provide the basis for an outline theoretical framework. The central arguments are illustrated with reference to a case-based analysis of the technological and social innovations that have taken place in English farmhouse cheesemaking over an extended period, from the pre-industrial era to the beginning of the present century. The concluding section considers how more nuanced understandings of artisanal knowledge and practice might enhance innovation theory and contribute to the continued flourishing of craft-based industries.

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