In a recent post, we discussed the research challenges of defining our subjects of interest. In seeking the answer, we have experienced a variety of related definitional challenges. When thinking about the relation of makers to their local economies, we were presented with the challenges of thinking about what “local” means. How do we bound our notion of local?
“Local” is perhaps one of the most contested concepts in human geography and planning literature. A critical literature regarding scalar politics, space and place, and globalization has arisen to analyze some of the paradoxes of localism, utilizing such concepts as “the local trap,” “glocalization,” and “localism without parochialism.” The central problematic involves the dialectic and embedded relations between local and global.
In our research, we get the sense that the artisan economy is not a local phenomenon in the parochial sense. As evidence, we have recently had inquiries about our research from colleagues in Europe and Asia. These inquiries included questions about specific artisan activities that are taking place here in Portland, some of which we weren’t even aware. Portland, arguably one of the most palpable examples of a strong local economy, is deeply connected to global processes at the intersection of culture and economy.
It will be a central task for us to determine what we mean by “local” in relation to our research. There are so many qualitative features of local – where our actions/agency is centered, how our everyday routines and relationships are expressions of both locality and globality, the articulations of self-reliance that become predominant in the maker community, how we express connection to place, and so on. While we don’t presume to resolve the paradoxes of the local question in our research, we hope to contribute to the discussion and to reinvigorate the notion of local outside of the straitjackets of parochialism and romanticism.