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Guitar Makers


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About the Author

Kathryn Marie Dudley is professor of anthropology and American studies at Yale University.


"Kathryn Dudley deftly reconstructs the social, moral and aesthetic worlds that a counter-cultural generation of North American luthiers has made in concert and in conflict with the volatile, 'entrepreneurial' imperatives of a globalizing, neoliberal economy. Out of the many different artisanal voices in her study--all of them eloquent in and for themselves--Dudley teases out a haunting, antiphonal meditation on the meanings of embodied work, knowledge, and exchange in an increasingly virtualized and commodified world. In this, Guitar Makers is as masterfully crafted and richly resonant as the instruments themselves."--Jean-Christophe Agnew "Yale University "
"Guitar Makers is a must read for anyone working in the field of guitar building. . . . Born out of the spirit of the late '60s, with more than a tinge of hippie idealism, the roots of American modern lutherie are far from the European model, grown out of the medieval guild system, with its mistrust, secrecy of methods and territorial angst."--Michael Spalt, European Guitar Builders
"Guitar Makers is a terrific book. Dudley has investigated the world of North American guitar making, or lutherie, the long hard way, the way of intense participation and observation, deep involvement in the world she studied, and in general following the old anthropological wisdom of seeing for yourself and asking about everything you don't understand."--Howard S. Becker "author of Art from Start to Finish "
"Guitar Makers attunes readers to the complex works and lives of American artisan guitar makers. In this finely honed ethnography, Dudley helps us hear how guitar makers seek to challenge capitalist mythmaking by pursuing work out of a sense of passion, even obsession, often at the expense of profit. Dudley's luthiers, consoled by the conviction that others might recognize in the quality of their products the values that make their labor worth pursuing, come alive in this engaging anthropology of commodities, class, and craft."--Heather Paxson, author of The Life of Cheese
"Guitar Makers is an important contribution to the literature on craft labor and artisanal production through its analysis of guitar making in the United States and Canada. It provides a multifaceted and complex image of a variety of craftspeople seeking to create instruments in a context of rising values and cachet for craft guitars. Dudley's ethnographic vignettes contrast the diverse manners and techniques of guitar making, as well as spell out the unifying themes of artisanal labor and self-transformation. Drawing its data from a number of workshops and factories, Dudley's ethnography effectively captures the dynamics of artisanal instrument making, including its alchemic science of producing tone, the entangled agency of its tools and machines, and the historical transmission of its craft knowledge."--Anthropology of Work Review
"An energetically researched and intellectually penetrating ethnography of artisan guitar makers. . . . Guitar Makers is an important book."--In These Times
"Dudley's Guitar Makers epitomizes Becker's insistence that the objects of art are a key factor in explaining how art works and Braverman's focus on the labor process by examining the social relations around the production of fine acoustic guitars. This outstanding ethnography demonstrates how elite luthiers (guitar makers) have succeeded in sustaining meaningful work under their own control in the postindustrial economy."--Work and Occupations

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