Past events

Art & Anthropology Workshop
Friday 04 July 2014, 10:30am - 05:00pm
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Art & Anthropology Workshop

Friday 4 July 2014 at 10.30am

at the Royal Anthropological Institute

The event is free, but tickets must be booked.  To book tickets please go to

10.30 - Introduction

11.00 - Susanne Kuechler (UCL)

The Move to the Centre: Art in the Vortex of Anthropological Theory

In the wake of Alfred Gell’s Art and Agency anthropology can declare with confidence that it contributes to an understanding of the epistemic nature of aesthetics by offering a methodological framework for exploring how artefacts ‘work’ and what they ‘do.’ Central to the analytical prism offered by Art and Agency is the recognition that arefacts can serve as models of biographical relations, and that an understanding of how and what they model can vitally enrich our understanding of how societies remember themselves. That artefacts can model biographical relations is not a new idea, but the full implication of this hypothesis for anthropology is yet to be fully realized thanks to latent, deeply rooted assumptions grounded in 19th century theory of objectification that have reduced artefacts to the flipside of social life enabling us merely to see how subjects make objects their own. My paper will examine what is at stake theoretically and methodologically using examples from Oceanic art.

12.00 - Elizabeth Ewart (Oxford)

From appropriation to creation: artefacts of the body among Panará people

Panará people, like many other Amazonian peoples orient themselves towards alterity as an important source of social vitality. Many practices and objects are explicitly valued for the fact of being captured, stolen, bought or copied from others. Beadwork is a prime example in that both the raw material in the form of beads as well as techniques and designs are acquired and learnt from others. At the same time however, Panará people consider that proper moral ways of living are produced by birth within a maternal clan space and by the practices of daily living with one another; the social practices of others being considered significantly inferior to Panará ways of living. Using the example of beadwork, this paper explores the place of creative invention in the rapidly expanding repertoire of designs and techniques used by Panará women when working with beads. Alongside the familiar emphases on appropriation and transformation might there be room for theories of creation and creativity?

1.00 - Lunch

2.00 - Peter Gow (St Andrews)

A lesson in Piro beadwork: The meaning of style in a lived world

Abstract to come.

3.00 - Stephanie Bunn (St Andrews)

New work and old

I will be presenting a summary of my recent work. Most of my research links to textiles, set within human and environmental contexts. This includes recent work with Kyrgyz fashion.

4.00 - Paolo Fortis (Durham)

The aesthetics of power and alterity among Kuna people

Why did Kuna people in the 1940s carve statues in the likeness of the North American General MacArthur and use them in shamanic healing rituals? Taking into account the history of long-standing relations between Kuna people and North American armies based in the Panama Canal Zone this paper focuses on the adoption of military imagery and metaphors in the making of Kuna ritual objects. The analysis of this case provides insights into Kuna aesthetics and sociality. It is argued that, apparently challenging the avoidance of ‘lifelikeness’ of other such ritual figures, the carved images of MacArthur might shed light both on the perception of white people and their military apparatus and on transformations in the Kuna lived world.

5.00 - Final Discussion

Location 3