A perennial methodological issue in anthropological research concerns the relationship between internal and external landscapes. The notion of beauty mediates between the two. This panel seeks to respond to a critically important idea that is surprisingly understudied.
Rubens' (1636) painting, The Judgement of Paris and Monteverdi's (1645) opera, L'incoronazione di Poppea are taken as starting points in a discussion of the ways visual and musical representations of male and female beauty have classically been used to provoke debates about relations between beauty, power, and morality. As judge in the competition to decide who should be recognized as the most beautiful goddess, Paris chose Aphrodite, thus seeming to equate her qualities (freedom, spontaneity, sexual availability) above those of her rival Hera, goddess of marriage and fidelity. In a rather comparable way the opera tells the story of the time in his life when the emperor Nero clearly considered his concubine, Poppea, to be more beautiful than his faithful wife Ottavia. In both painting and opera, feelings of injustice are manifest in the expressions of those rejected by their male counterparts and viewers/audiences are drawn to sympathise with them at precisely the same time as they are themselves enchanted by the heroine. Such narratives, and the enduring hold they have over contemporary audiences and viewers, are fruitful subjects for anthropological discussion. These examples invite reflections on the way in which understandings of beauty are used to mediate between internal and external landscapes and thus what beauty represents. This panel seeks to discuss the anthropology of beauty. Themes may include, but are not restricted to:
Beauty and power
Beauty and morality
The relationship between beauty and myth
Beauty and desire/longing
Culturally situated understandings of beauty