Navaho Art and Culture

Navaho Art and Culture

Navaho Art and Culture

Navaho Art and Culture

Excerpt

Dr. Mills takes his reader on a bold adventure. Anthropologists and other behavioral scientists would agree that to understand human life one must have some orderly way of dealing with the arts and with core values. But they would likewise agree that these two areas have thus far proven the most intractable of all behavior spheres to empirical and objectified study. George Mills has dared to attack both simultaneously. There is much to be said, I think, for his implicit assumption of an intimate linkage between aesthetic values and those more pervasive postulates and categories that underlie all culturally distinctive perceptions and judgments. I suspect, for example, that this linkage is reflected in the fact that in English and many other languages one speaks equally of "good" pictures and of "good" acts.

In method, also, Mills has faced venturesomely the obstacles that have held most previous studies of arts and values to personal impression or incompleteness or sterility. He has used the quantitative dimension sensibly and without surrender to it. He has availed himself of everything from the most abstract aesthetic theory to the most concrete firsthand observation and "experiment." He has brought the comparative perspective to bear alike on his broad canvas and on the more limited one of his own field work where he tested and interviewed not only Navahos but also Pueblo Indians who live in the same ecological environment. His title refers quite properly to "art and culture," for he examines each artistic manifestation and attitudes toward it in the widest possible context.

A culture is rich to the extent that it communicates itself in a variety of modes and meanings. The world can be, and is, seen and interpreted in many ways. To what extent are there least common factors or highest common denominators? That, it seems to me, is the most central question in Mills' book.

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