Art as Culture: An Introduction to the Anthropology of Art

By Evelyn Payne Hatcher | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Chapter 5
Why? Social Contexts and Social Functions
The "why" of this chapter has to do with why art is a matter of culture, supported by society and of importance to it rather than a purely personal concern. Art is assumed to function to help hold society together, but there are differing viewpoints as to how this is accomplished. The main positions are:
I. Art helps hold society together because of its psychological functions -- essentially it acts as a safety valve, channeling discontent, disruption, and excess energy. The meanings of the forms have to do with psychological tensions, anxieties and frustrations because of taboos, conflicts and other points of tension in the culture. Art is life enhancing, making individuals feel more in harmony with everything, and so with each other. Happy persons are easier to get along with than unhappy ones.
II. Art helps to hold society together by the esthetic pleasure it provides, especially when people are gathered in large groups. It is a form of pleasure bond, important in encouraging the feeling of togetherness, "communitas". Meaning is derived very largely by association -- contextual meaning. The relation between (art) form and (social) function is not necessarily very significant, i.e., it is not the symbols that are important, but just the esthetic pleasure from the surroundings.
III. Art helps hold society together because it reflects and reinforces the relationships deemed proper in that society; art symbols are collective representations which by their form and content are shaped by and help shape the social order.

While different theories emphasize one or another of these positions, there is no reason why art cannot function in all of these ways, even simultaneously. Especially as there is more than one kind of "togetherness". The concept of "communitas" mentioned above is useful in this context; Turner contrasts the unifying emotion of communitas to the organized unity of the structure:


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Art as Culture: An Introduction to the Anthropology of Art


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 337

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?