Fall 2019 - LBST 330 D200

Selected Topics in Labour Studies (3)

Craft: Material Work in a Digital Age

Class Number: 9408

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    RCB 5120, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Benjamin Anderson
    Office Hours: MO 13:00-14:00
  • Prerequisites:

    Strongly Recommended: LBST 101 and/or 301.



Selected topics in areas not currently offered within the undergraduate course offerings. Students may take more than one offering of LBST Selected Topics courses for credit, as long as the topic for each offering is different.


Craft: Material Work in a Digital Age

How do we account for the recent popular enthusiasm for the local, artisanal and handmade? Does the preponderance of artisanally produced commodities suggest a shift in contemporary consumer culture beyond or against the centralized mass production of the industrial period, or do localist and ‘maker’ movements simply reflect the increasingly diffuse nature of production of the digital age? More importantly, what do these changes mean for labour and the conditions workers face in an ever more precarious world of work?

This special seminar will interrogate the category of craft in historical and contemporary context. It will begin by considering the historical transformation of dominant forms of work from pre-industrial capitalism, through the industrial revolution and on to the informationally mediated labour context of today, questioning the role of the artisan, the piece-worker, and the homeworker throughout these profound political economic shifts. It will move on to track the histories and narratives of craft and craft-worker movements from Victorian England to the 1960s counter-culture to punk subcultures and on to today’s localist and makers’ movements. Finally, the course will look at specific case studies of popular craft industries such as artisanal foods and drinks, hand-made furniture and décor, and digitally-mediated craft marketplaces, such as Etsy, to better understand the working arrangements, worker identities/cultures and potentials for collective organizing that these industries and others like them present.

Concepts relating to precarity, feminism, colonialism and ideology will be woven throughout these explorations in order to provide opportunities for critical examination of cultural narratives that might, at first glance, seem benign but that, under further scrutiny, might also obscure relations of exploitation, atomization, and reinforcement of social privilege and exclusion.


This course is intended to introduce students to an area of inquiry that has, until recently, remained peripheral to the broader field of Labour Studies. Ideally, the course will serve as an orientation to theoretical interpretations of small-scale material work in the 21st century, but applied to specific and often local contexts (Vancouver). It will challenge students to critically examine and interpret narratives of creativity, artisanry, and localism and to weigh these against the political economic backdrops of precarity, austerity, and neoliberal governance. Students will also have the opportunity to reflect on or develop their own craft practices (hobby or otherwise) and to consider how these fit within the theoretical framework of the course.


  • Attendance and participation 10%
  • Midterm exam 40%
  • Group presentation 10%
  • How-to and research project 40%


Grading: The letter grade N (incomplete) is given when a student has enrolled for a course, but did not write the final examination or otherwise failed to complete the coursework, and did not withdraw from the course before the deadline date. An N is considered and F for purposes of scholastic standing. 

Grading System: Undergraduate Course Grading System is A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D, F, N (N standing to indicate the student did not complete).

A+ 95-100 B+ 80-84 C+ 65-69 D 50-54
A 90-94 B 75-79 C 60-64 F 0-49
A- 85-89 B- 70-74 C- 55-59  

Centre for Accessible Learning: Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.



All course readings will be made available electronically through Canvas or via e-mail.


Adamson, G. (2010). The Craft Reader. New York: Berg.
ISBN: 978-1-847883032

Kristofferson, R. B. (2007). Craft Capitalism: Craftworkers and Early Industrialization in Hamilton, Ontario, 1840-1872. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
ISBN: 978-0-802094087

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html