Anthropology “Art and Society” course of possible interest to Draper students

Professor Fred Myers is teaching the Anthropology grad course Art and Society this Fall, on Mondays from 2-4:45pm. Description below. Students must consult with Robert Dimit during their advising appointments before registering.


 GA 1630:   Art and Society

                  According to Jakobson, communication has an aesthetic function when communication focusses on the medium itself.  In this course, we will consider the nature of aesthetic expression in a variety of media — the arts, broadly speaking — in diverse societies, focusing both on style and function with a critical examination of the relationships between art and other dimensions of culture.   One of the instructor’s principal interests is in the larger problem of how material culture acquires value in a variety of social formations.  As cultural forms from a variety of societies now circulate more broadly outside of the venues in which their meanings were once produced, a range of very interesting anthropological and conceptual problems has emerged.  In the course, we will be concerned with tracing the impact of the new circumstances of art’s circulation on traditional theories of the value of the formal.

            A major emphasis in the course will consist of comparing relativist approaches from anthropology that have questioned the universality of the category “art” with current debates in art theory on the category of “aesthetics.”  The plan is to take quite seriously the conception of “art and society” as a problem, by exploring different problems in this relationship and especially considering the social and cultural construction of the category “art” itself in artworlds.  Topics will include the general orientations of ethnoaesthetics (the way form is understood locally); the role of art producers cross-culturally; the primitivism debates; the differentiation of the arts from each other; art, taste, and distinction; new patterns (global flows?) in the circulation and consumption of art; struggles over public art; the avant-garde; art markets; artwriting; and art, nationalism, and cultural identity.

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