Art as Culture: An Introduction to the Anthropology of Art

Art as Culture: An Introduction to the Anthropology of Art

Art as Culture: An Introduction to the Anthropology of Art

Art as Culture: An Introduction to the Anthropology of Art

Synopsis

An introduction to the cross-cultural study of art from an anthropological perspective, this book is about the human condition in all its diversity. It explores the question of whether there is a correlation between the level of complexity of society and the nature of art.

Excerpt

This book is written as an introduction for the use of persons new to the field. To do this I have tried to present the data, and the organizing of ideas in very basic form to look at many ways that what we call art is related to other aspects of culture and society. But in my view this is not being merely simplistic, because in the complexities of the contemporary world in a state of globalization where everything and everybody are interrelated with everything and everybody else, the complexities are overwhelming, and it is difficult to see such relationships.

So I consider this as a theoretical statement, even if put as clearly and simply as I can, because we are in a period when many are so preoccupied with the leaves on the trees that a look at the forest is called for.

Also, it seems to me that if one really understands a theory, it is possible to describe the essence of it in simple terms. This of course omits a great deal that a specialist would find significant, but leads the non-specialist to productive questions. In this edition I have not revised the original chapters but have added two new ones. These basically address the question as to whether what we have learned in smaller societies is useful for understanding larger ones, and how the approaches discussed in the original chapters relate to contemporary thinking. The Functionalist approach, for example, was a very useful one in bringing out many of the ways various aspects of society are related. Of course, it did not explain everything and new organizing ideas were needed. But in tracing out relationships questions were raised that led to other questions. So the examples used in most of the book are very simple sketches of the way art is related to other things in small societies. Such societies are not simple or "primitive", but have been studied because the observer had a chance to explore some of the relationships before globalization changed them.

What we have been calling "a culture" is a kind of construct of what we believe a certain number of people have in common. It is a rather static concept. There are a number of recent works that call to . . .

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