Accepted Paper:

Can Humankind Survive Without Art?   


Dorothy Billings (Wichita State University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper seeks to examine the factors which have created and sustained some kinds of art in all known cultures. Art cannot, then, be treated as a pleasant afterthought, an epiphenomenon generated by the wealthy of society.

Paper long abstract:

Long Abstract: Some anthropologists have turned recently to the study of "materiality," which usually includes the plastic arts of societies. The arts of dance, theater, song and instrumentally produced music usually involves some kind of "material" whether that "material" is the human body or a slit drum made from a tree trunk. As contemporary industrialized societies treat the arts as luxuries that can, reluctantly but persistently, be excised from school curricula, researchers have found ways in which the arts enhance learning in other disciplines, e.g. math. Anthropologists are more likely to be familiar with the singing and dancing of the Kung Bushmen shown in one of John Marshall's and Robert Gardner's films, "The Bushmen of the Kalahari." A group that has been trying to live on the watermelons of kinsmen for 3 months have agreed to accept Marshall's offer to fix their water pump and return to their village. The night before they begin their long, hot journey they spend their time singing and dancing around the fire. As they walk the two-day hot journey on which many goats die from lack of water, one young man plays the thumb piano.

This paper explores some of the various factors which keep the arts going in conditions of plenty and also in conditions of major deprivation.

Panel BH04
Indigenous knowledge and sustainable development (IUAES Commission on Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainable Development)