This panel asks what art can do for anthropology, rather than what anthropological approaches can bring to an understanding of art. It will explore forms of collaboration between art and anthropology that foreground performance, practice, exhibition and event.
This panel asks what art can do for anthropology, rather than what anthropological approaches can bring to an understanding of art. In recent years, a growing literature on questions of materiality, agency and the contingency of people and things has been reshaping the anthropology of art (e.g. Gell 1998; Ingold 2013). Much of this literature draws on a wider reconsideration of materials, things and stuff as vital and active in the world, rather than inert objects representative of human meaning (Latour 1993; Bennett 2009; Miller 2005). This work pushes debates around art objects and art practice beyond ideas of representation, ritual use or symbolic meaning and asks instead what it is that art does: how it mediates and transforms social relations in an ongoing - sometimes fraught - process. Yet despite the renewed theoretical focus on doing over meaning, agency over representation, this has rarely translated into new methods or ways of working. Texts remain at the heart of the academic project, in which semantics, narrative and interpretation endure. Critical engagements between scholars and cultural actors such as artists and performers - for whom making and practice, as much as representation and narrative, are the everyday tools of sense-making - may re-energise debates about the relationship between art and anthropology. This panel will explore forms of intellectual enquiry and collaboration that foreground performance, practice, exhibition and event. We invite proposals for papers exploring research-orientated, creative or curatorial collaborations between scholarship and the arts, in the broadest sense.