What is the course about?
The Anthropology of Art overlaps with art history, aesthetics, material culture studies, and visual anthropology. On this introductory course we shall critically explore the role and meaning of masks, paintings, photography, museums, tourist and street art, and the human body. Some of the questions we discuss are “Is there a universal concept of beauty or an indigenous aesthetic? Why do different cultures decorate their walls and floors on different ways? Is the human body increasingly seen as a visual canvas? What is the role of museums and ethnographic collections”. We address how an anthropological approach to art is distinguished by a global and local understanding, and the social relationships involved in the making of art objects. How does a culture produce different art styles and to what extent does the value of art change when transported cross culturally? By analysing 19thc colonial and contemporary ethnographic photographs and the role of fieldwork, an understanding of the parallels and perspectives of how anthropologists and photographers equally step inside and outside society is revealed On a practical level students will additionally analyse the form and function of objects and the status of artists in the community through role play and handling visual material. This course concludes with a museum visit.
What will we cover?
• What is the Anthropology of Art?
• Anthropology of the body, tattooing, scarification, hair and skin.
• 20thc tribal art influences on Picasso and Matisse
• Anthropology of the line- Aboriginal dreamtime and land art
• Anthropology of Art and the Senses
• Anthropology of colonial and contemporary ethnographic photography
• The ritual and cultural decoration of domestic walls and floors.
• The role of museums and ethnographic collections
• Museum or exhibition visit relating to the course.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Students will have gained knowledge and an understanding of the key theorists, concepts and debates relating to
• the anthropology of art.
• Evaluate key anthropology theories and develop critical analysis relating to the anthropology of art and its
• significance in human society
• Demonstrate an understanding of anthropological methods and practice in relation to our material world
• Develop an academic, personal and professional understanding of the anthropology of art through role play, class
• discussions and debate.
• Apply an ethnographic appreciation to a variety of cross cultural values and beliefs relating to anthropology of art and the visual image, through practical handling of material art objects, photographic material and a museum visit.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This is an introductory course that requires no prior experience of anthropology. Your enjoyment will be enhanced if you approach this course with an open and critical mind and a curiosity for learning. You will benefit from reading and commenting upon the anthropology texts distributed in class and be prepared to discuss with your peers. As anthropologists seek to raise awareness of the cross-cultural difference of human behaviour, overall you should be willing to re-evaluate your own understanding, perceptions and assumptions of art from cultures different to your own.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The Anthropology of Art course will comprise of talks, individual and group work, handling photographs and art objects, observing ethnographic films, seminar discussions and optional student presentations. There will also be a class visit to an art exhibition or gallery that complements the course content.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
No compulsory costs. Please bring writing tools for class work, a pen and paper or electronic equivalent. You will also be asked to bring in an object of art you may have collected whilst travelling, bought in a market or a family item to discuss in class.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Check out our range of Anthropology courses online or in our prospectus.