Visual Anthropology, Art, and Politics, 1988-2006
Over the years, Cultural Anthropology has published a number of essays that investigate the social and political complexities of visual representation. This compilation, a list in progress, features these essays from the late 1980s to the present, and aims to provide an overview of different perspectives from which scholars have addressed the relationship between art and (cultural) politics. The essays investigate the production and consumption of art or artifacts, relationships between artists and their products, and relationships between artists and their patrons – including the state, corporate companies, folklorists, and anthropologists.
Jessica Winegar studies the relationship between Egyptian artists, the Egyptian state, and international commercial sponsors in a post-colonial, post-socialist context, raising questions about the relationship between state and private sponsors, and the position of artists in society.
Similarly, Amy Ninetto examines the issues of power and taste that arise in new forms of collaboration between art museums and corporations in the contemporary United States in times of decreasing state funding for the arts. Her analysis details how these processes not only lead to unexpected partnerships, but also provide new opportunities for creating corporate identities through the commodification of art objects.
In his work on state archives in post-colonial Gambia, Liam Buckley examines a very different aspect of institutional processes of selection and representation. His analysis of the structural challenges faced by archivists attempting to preserve photographs from the colonial period shows how ideas about the proper ownership and preservation of personal and historical documents influence state efforts to document colonial history.
Focusing on the work that Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson conducted in Bali, Ira Jacknis investigates how visual images influenced these scholars’ initial research questions and methodologies, and how their use of photography and film led to new forms of documentation as well as patronage between the anthropologists and their fieldwork communities, including the commissioned and filmed re-enactment of rituals. Fred Myer's essay, on the other hand, examines filmmakers David and Judith MacDougalls' ethnographic portrayals of Australian Aboriginals in a series of films from the early 1980s, and shows how the MacDougalls' address issues of hegemony, agency, multivocality, and representation in and through their work.
Molly H. Mullin details how philanthropists deliberately created, promoted, and institutionalized an art market for Native American art (rather than Native American artifacts) in the 1930s and 1940s, by creating an art patronage system, as well as a number of standards to classify “authentic” Native American art. Jane Nadel-Klein's review essay of Penny Taylor's book on Aboriginal art in Australia provides important information about the obstacles that make it difficult for Aboriginal artists to gain recognition as artists by examining relationships between indigenous groups and the nation state.
Shelly Errington's essay investigates the semiotic ideologies and processes that allowed European and European American art critics to interpret, appropriate, and present material objects from Africa and Oceania as "authentic primitive art." She examines how discourses about the formal properties of objects enable collectors, curators, and critics to represent utilitarian objects into objects of art, and to market them as such.
Taken together, these essays reflect Cultural Anthropology’s continued engagement with investigating how hierarchies, politics, and values are being expressed and negotiated through the medium of visual art across different local, national, and global contexts.
Cosmopolitanism, Remediation, and the Ghost World of Bollywood
Cultural Anthropology Feb. 2010, Vol. 25, No. 1:40-72
Ethics, Iconoclasm, and Qur'anic Art in Indonesia
Cultural Anthropology Nov. 2009, Vol. 24, No. 4: 589-621
Cultural Sovereignty in a Global Art Economy: Egyptian Cultural Policy and the New Western Interest in Art from the Middle East
Cultural Anthropology May 2006, Vol. 21, No. 2: 173-204.
Objects of Love and Decay: Colonial Photographs in a Postcolonial Archive
Cultural Anthropology May 2005, Vol. 20, No. 2: 249-270.
Culture Sells: Cézanne and Corporate Identity
Cultural Anthropology May 1998, Vol. 13, No. 2: 256-282.
What became Authentic Primitive Art?
Cultural Anthropology May 1994, Vol. 9, No. 2: 201-226.
The Patronage of Difference: Making Indian Art "Art, Not Ethnology"
Molly H. Mullin
Cultural Anthropology January 1992, Vol.7, No. 4: 395 - 424.
Representing Culture: The Production of Discourse(s) for Aboriginal Acrylic Paintings
Cultural Anthropology January 1992, Vol. 7, No.1: 26-62
Picturing Aborigines: A Review Essay on After Two Hundred Years: Photographic Essays on Aboriginal and Islander Australia Today
Penny Taylor, Jane Nadel-Klein
Cultural Anthropology August 1991, Vol. 6, No 3: 414-423.
Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson in Bali: Their Use of Photography and Film
Cultural Anthropologist 1988 May 1988, Vol. 3, No 2: 160-177.
Picture of Farouk Hosny's Acrylic Painting
Picture of Paul Cézanne's Still Life with Peppermint Bottle
Photo of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson
Photo of la Chupicuaro, Musée du quai Branly, Paris