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79-364 Art, Anthropology, and Empire
This seminar will explore the anthropology and history of aesthetic objects, as they travel from places considered "primitive" or "exotic," to others deemed "civilized" or "Western." First, we will consider twentieth-century anthropological attempts to develop ways of appreciating and understanding objects from other cultures, and in the process to reconsider the meaning of such terms as "art" and "aesthetics." Then we will discuss several topics in the history of empire and the "exotic" arts, including: the conquest, colonization and appropriation of indigenous objects; the politics of display and the rise of museums and world fairs; the processes by which locally-produced art objects are transformed into commodities traded in international art markets; the effects of "exotic" art on such aesthetic movements as surrealism, etc.; and the appropriation of indigenous aesthetic styles by "Western" artists. Finally, we will consider attempts by formerly colonized populations to reclaim objects from museums, and to organize new museums, aesthetic styles, and forms of artistic production that challenge imperialism's persistent legacies.
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