Do-It-Yourself: The Precarious Work and Postfeminist Politics of Handmaking (In) Detroit. By Utopian Studies

Do-It-Yourself: The Precarious Work and Postfeminist Politics of Handmaking (In) Detroit.

By Utopian Studies

  • Release Date: 2011-07-01
  • Genre: Religion & Spirituality

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Description

ABSTRACT Drawing on limited ethnographic fieldwork conducted in 2009 and 2010, this article analyzes how the idioms of "craft" and "handmaking" are being evoked and (re) imagined in Detroit. Because of a recent flurry of journalistic accounts of artists, makers, and entrepreneurs flocking to the city's industrial ruins, Detroit has reemerged in the public imaginary as a utopic "blank canvas": an empty space waiting to be inscribed and transformed by the arrival of a new (and predominately white) creative class. In this narrative of transforming the "Motor City" into "Maker City," the future of the not-quite-postindustrial city rests in the hands of those willing and able to do-it-themselves. While urban farming, artist collectives, hackerspaces, and business start-ups are all part of this narrative, here I focus primarily on the gendered domestic arts (knitting, sewing, needlepoint, and so on), craft fairs, and in particular the work of an all female grassroots collective of makers called Handmade Detroit. Interrogating the intersections between postfeminist and post-Fordist subjectivities that emerge in and through the narratives, spaces, and practices of the "indie" crafting community in Detroit, I argue that pleasure and self-fulfillment are often exchanged for what might otherwise be felt to be unstable, precarious, and even exploitive work. Finally, this article explores how the transformative rhetoric of DIY often espouses values of pleasure, autonomy, and (consumer) choice, reproducing neoliberalist rationalities and limiting the political potential of craft and community activism in Detroit.