Queering Craft in Santa Clara del Cobre

Coppersmithing as a Practice of Care


  • Michele Feder-Nadoff Independent Scholar



Emneord (Nøkkelord):

Craft, care, performance, non-enumerative labor, incommensurability


As an artist-anthropologist who studies “making” through apprenticeship, I have discovered that craft production in the Mexican copper-smithing community of Santa Clara del Cobre is a practice of care, a kind of love. This inversion of careful and caring labor, required to create the well-made copper piece, also encompasses qualities and skills that queer societal stereotypes of binary gender-lines. Artisans generate bodies of knowledge through representative and reproductive performance, i.e. productive labor anchored in the forge through care, perspicacity and attention. Like all nurturing activities given freely, artisanal reproductivity cannot be adequately measured as wage labor. This is not to say that this generous work should be unpaid. But rather to suggest that what is desired of craft is precisely this non-enumerative quotient of care. My research is based upon an apprenticeship to Maestro Jesús Pérez Ornelas, an independent coppersmith artisan, successful enough to be free to follow his vision and imagination, to create things with care. Maestro Jesús would say: “If I counted all the blows of my hammer, I would go crazy! And besides, no client would be able to afford to buy my work!” It is this boundless giftedness that makes up the imaginary of craft, its tropes and aura:  its generosity. Like women’s “reproductive” work of family, the work of the artisan is also “reproductive.” Both demand a “maternal” nurturance, unquantifiable attention and care. This quotient of care is pure gift without reciprocity. This non-enumerative labor… a kind of love.


Michele Feder-Nadoff, Independent Scholar

Artist-Anthropologist (Phd) 


Arendt, H. (2018). The Human Condition. The University of Chicago Press. https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226586748.001.0001 https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226586748.001.0001

Ardren, T. (2012). Women’s Production: Annette Weiner and the Study of Gender in the Prehispanic New World. Voices, 12(1): 23-27.

Bellacasa, M.P. (2012). ‘Nothing Comes without its World’: Thinking with Care. The Sociological Review, 60(2):197-2016. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.2012.02070.x https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.2012.02070.x

Beidelman, T. O., & F. R. Myers. (1998). Annette Weiner (1933-1997). American Anthropologist, 100(3), 757–759. https://doi.org/10.1525/aa.1998.100.3.757 https://doi.org/10.1525/aa.1998.100.3.757

Biehl, J. & P. Locke. (2010). Delueze and the Anthropology of Becoming. Current Anthropology, 51(3),317-351. https://doi.org/10.1086/651466 https://doi.org/10.1086/651466

Biehl, J. & P. Locke. (Eds.). (2017). Unfinished: The Anthropology of Becoming. Duke Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822372455 https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822372455

Bowen-Moore, P. (2014 [1989]). Hannah Arendt’s Philosophy of Natality. Palgrave MacMillan.

Brown, G. (2003). Theorizing Ritual as Performance: Explorations of Ritual Indeterminacy. Journal of Ritual Studies, 17(1), 3–18. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44368641

Butler, J. (2007 [1990]) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Routledge.

Feder-Nadoff, M. A. (Ed.). (2004). Ritmo del fuego: El arte y los artesanos de Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán, México [Rhythm of Fire: The Art and Craftsmen of Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán, Mexico]. Chicago: Fundación Cuentos.

Feder-Nadoff, M. A. (2004). Santa Clara del Cobre: Materia y proceso, destilación e intercambio. In Ritmo del fuego: El arte y los Artesanos de Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán, México [Rhythm of Fire: The Art and Artisans of Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán, Mexico](pp.32-63). Fundación Cuentos.

Feder-Nadoff, M. A. (2014). Martillos y trastes: mujeres artesanas Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán [Hammers and frets: artisan women Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán] (Unpublished conference paper). Coloquio Mujeres, Feminismo y Arte Popular, Área Mujer, Identidad y Poder, Departamento de Política y Cultura, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Unidad Xochimilco.

Feder-Nadoff, M. A. (2017). El cuerpo de conocimiento — entre praxis & teoría— la agencia de los artesanos y su artesanía, Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán: Hacia una antropología del hacer [The body of knowledge — between praxis and theory — the agency of artisans and their crafts, Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán: Towards an anthropology of doing][Phd dissertation]. El Colegio de Michoacán.

Feder-Nadoff, M. A. (Ed). (2022a). Performing Craft in Mexico: Artisans, Aesthetics and the Power of Translation. Lexington Books.

Feder-Nadoff, M. A. (2022b). Hammering in-between: Liminality and Contingency in Artisanal Practice, Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán, México. In Z. Hadromi-Allouche and M. Hubbard MacKay, (Eds.). Betwixt and Between Liminality and Marginality: Mind the Gap (pp. 99-128). Lexington Books.

Fisher, B. & J. C. Tronto. (1990). Towards a feminist theory of caring in Circles of care: work and identity in women’s lives, E. Abel & M. Nelson (Eds.). Circles of Care: Work and Identity in Women’s Lives (pp. 35–62). State University of New York Press.

Goddard, V. and Pine, F. (2022) Gender: feminist perspectives and economic anthropology. In J. G. Carrier(Ed.). A handbook of economic anthropology (3rd ed.) (pp. 176-190). Edward Elgar Publishing. https://doi.org/10.4337/9781839108921.00023 https://doi.org/10.4337/9781839108921.00023

Handler, R. (2009). The Uses of incommensurability in Anthropology. New Literary History, 40(3), 627-647. https://doi.org/10.1353/nlh.0.0101 https://doi.org/10.1353/nlh.0.0101

Hermkens, A. K. & Lepani, K. (Eds.). (2017). Sinuous Objects: revaluing women’s wealth in the contemporary Pacific. ANU Press. https://doi.org/10.22459/SO.08.2017 https://doi.org/10.22459/SO.08.2017

Hersch, C. (1990). Arendt on Human Beginnings - Patricia Bowen-Moore: Hannah Arendt's Philosophy of Natality. (New York: St. Martin's Press. 1989. Pp. x. 190. $24.95.). The Review of Politics, 52(4), 643-645. doi:10.1017/S0034670500049044 https://doi.org/10.1017/S0034670500049044

Ingold, T. (2013). Making: Anthropology, Archeology, Art, and Architecture. Routledge.

Ingold, T. & Hallam, E. (Eds.). (2014). Making and Growing: Anthropological Studies of Organisms and Artefacts. Ashgate Publishing. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203559055 https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203559055

Jenkins, F., & Jolly, M. (2018). Gender Trouble: Judith Butler and Anthropology. In H. Callan (Ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology (1st ed., pp. 2573-2575). John Wiley & Sons. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118924396.wbiea2095 https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118924396.wbiea2095

Jolly, M. (1992). Banana Leaf Bundles and Skirts: A Pacific Penelope's Web? In Carrier, J., (Ed.). History and Tradition in Melanesian Anthropology (pp. 38-63). University of California Press. https://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft509nb347;chunk.id=d0e1078;doc.view=print

Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, B. & Meyers, F. (Eds.). (2006), Art and Material Culture: A Conversation with Annette Weiner. InF. R. Meyers, (Ed.). The Empire of Things: Regimes of Value and Material Culture (pp. 269-313). School of American Research Press /James Curry.

Marchand, T. (Ed.). (2010). Making Knowledge: Explorations of the Indissoluble Relation Between, Mind, Body and Environment. Wiley-Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781444391473 https://doi.org/10.1002/9781444391473

Morgenroth, T. & Ryan M.K. (2018). Gender Trouble in Social Psychology: How Can Butler’s Work Inform Experimental Social Psychologists’ Conceptualization of Gender? Front. Psychol. 9(1320). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01320 https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01320

Povinelli, E. A. (2001). Radical Worlds: The Anthropology of Incommensurability and Inconceivability. Annual Review of Anthropology, 30, 319-334. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.anthro.30.1.319 https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.anthro.30.1.319

Reed, A. (2016). Craft and Care: The Maker Movement, Catherine Blake and the Digital Humanities. Essays in Romanticism, 23(1), 23-38. https://doi.org/10.3828/eir.2016.23.1.4 https://doi.org/10.3828/eir.2016.23.1.4

Sanders, J. H. (2018) Queering Craft: Nick Cave. In E. Garber, L. Hochtritt & M. Sharma (Eds.). Makers, Crafters, Educators: Working for cultural change(pp. 128-130). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315179254-33 https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315179254-33

Sansi, R. (2014). The Pleasure of Expense: Mauss and the Gift in Contemporary Art. Journal of Classical Sociology. 14(1), 91-99. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468795X13494721 https://doi.org/10.1177/1468795X13494721

Sansi, R. & M. Strathern. (2016). Art and anthropology after relations. Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 6(2), 425–439. https://doi.org/10.14318/hau6.2.023 https://doi.org/10.14318/hau6.2.023

Strathern, M. (2016) Before and After Gender: Sexual Mythologies of Everyday Life. HAU Books.

Totschnig, W. (2017). Arendt’s Notion of Natality. An Attempt at Clarification. Ideas y Valores, 66(165), 327-346. https://doi.org/10.15446/ideasyvalores.v66n165.55202 https://doi.org/10.15446/ideasyvalores.v66n165.55202

Tronto, J. (2013). Caring Democracy Markets, Equality, and Justice. NYU Press.

Tronto, J. (1995). Care as a Basis for Radical Political Judgments. Hypatia, 10(2), 141-149. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1527-2001.1995.tb01376.x https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1527-2001.1995.tb01376.x

Tronto, J. C. (1994) Moral Boundaries: A Political argument for an ethic of care. Routledge.

Valk, J. (2020). The alienating inalienable: Rethinking Annette Weiner’s concept of inalienable wealth through Japan’s “sleeping kimono.” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 10(1), 147-165. https://doi.org/10.1086/708748 https://doi.org/10.1086/708748

Weiner, A. B. (1992) Inalienable Possessions: The Paradox of Keeping-while-giving. University of California Press. https://doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520076037.001.0001 https://doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520076037.001.0001

Weiner, A. B. (1985). Inalienable Wealth. American Ethnologist, 12(2): 210–227. https://doi.org/10.1525/ae.1985.12.2.02a00020 https://doi.org/10.1525/ae.1985.12.2.02a00020

Weiner, A. B. (1980). Reproduction: A Replacement for Reciprocity. American Ethnologist, 7(1), 71–85. http://www.jstor.org/stable/643427. https://doi.org/10.1525/ae.1980.7.1.02a00050 https://doi.org/10.1525/ae.1980.7.1.02a00050

Weiner, A.B. (1979.). Trobriand Kinship from Another View: The Reproductive Power of Women and Men. Man, 14(2): 328-348. https://doi.org/10.2307/2801571 https://doi.org/10.2307/2801571




Hvordan referere

Feder-Nadoff, M. (2023). Queering Craft in Santa Clara del Cobre: Coppersmithing as a Practice of Care. FormAkademisk, 16(4). https://doi.org/10.7577/formakademisk.5382

Cited by