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Devices as rituals: notes on enacting resistance

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2013
JournalJournal of Cultural Economy
Journal number3
Volume6
Number of pages19
Pages259-277
Early online date28/01/13
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

In this paper we seek to expand the sense of what a device is. We draw from ethnography about contemporary farming practices, and in particular beef cattle farming, as we seek to understand the craft of farming. Our concern with practices on the farm considers, in particular, the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) of the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS). The CTS is important – nay financially crucial – to everyone who farms cattle in Britain and it looks and feels like a metaphorical device. The CTS is systematic and it rests on an elaborate IT database, so it is mechanical or electronic in parts and hence it is machine-like. But are devices necessarily machine-like? We suggest that devices don’t have to look or be that way. The Cattle Tracing System is a farming device that divides, separates, and classifies; it’s a contrivance that is purposeful. Similarly, we suggest that the work of the farmer in caring for cattle can also be imagined as a device or as a set of devices. In this expanded sense we will treat devices as practices of purposive crafting and our core question is: how is this achieved? One answer is that this is achieved through mechanisms of repetition. That is, we argue that realities are generated in patterned and repeated practices of purposive crafting. Finally and crucially we argue that while some reality-enacting practices are exclusive of alternative realties, some practices, such as lyricism and refrains, resist capture and enact alternative realities.

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