Teaching the Whole Body: Apprenticeships in traditional G’witchin Dene canoe building as a framework for an enhanced pedagogy.
Academic inquiry has long privileged abstract knowledge by creating externally situated cognitive schemas of understanding that are primarily based on what can be observed and that can be transmitted through language. This study addresses alternatives to the established primacy of theoretical knowledge by engaging in a pragmatic approach which seeks to recover the value of apprenticeships in higher education for their ability to connect theories of knowing with practical doing. The premise being; that a skilled bodily practice, even though every bit as intelligent as other advanced forms of knowledge, has become increasingly marginalized in academia and furthermore, that concepts which are abstracted above the usefulness of everyday life are overvalued in contemporary education.
My philosophical interest in pragmatism reflects my own productive preoccupation with the practice of ‘doing’ rather than the spelling out of ideas in ‘writing’. This project will draw on my extensive experience as an apprentice canoe builder in an attempt to uncover not only how embodied knowledge is co-constructed between master and apprentice but also to forge new directions in research and inquiry by uncovering what may lie beyond linguistic communication and purely textual accounts in anthropology. A large part of my research for my Master’s will accordingly be taken up with building a canoe.