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Saito Yuriko. Aesthetics of the Familiar: Everyday Life and World-Making
2017, Oxford University Press
Added by: Simon Fokt

Publisher’s Note: Yuriko Saito explores the nature and significance of the aesthetic dimensions of people’s everyday life. Everyday aesthetics has the recognized value of enriching one’s life experiences and sharpening one’s attentiveness and sensibility. Saito draws out its broader importance for how we make our worlds, environmentally, morally, as citizens and consumers. Saito urges that we have a social responsibility to encourage cultivation of aesthetic literacy and vigilance against aesthetic manipulation. Yuriko Saito argues that ultimately, everyday aesthetics can be an effective instrument for directing the humanity’s collective and cumulative world-making project for the betterment of all its inhabitants.

Everyday aesthetics has been seen as a challenge to contemporary Anglo-American aesthetics discourse, which is dominated by the discussion of art and beauty. Saito responds to controversies about the nature, boundary, and status of everyday aesthetics and argues for its legitimacy. She highlights the multi-faceted aesthetic dimensions of everyday life that are not fully accounted for by the commonly-held account of defamiliarizing the familiar.

Comment: Of the three parts of the book (Concepts, Cases, Consequences), the first is the most theoretically involved. It engages with the current debates in everyday aesthetics, examining the concepts of ‘everyday’ and ‘aesthetics’, and arguing with the common drive to defamiliarize the familiar, aimed at making what is mundane stand out, turning the ordinary into something extraordinary. What is there to be gained by ‘artifying’ things, and thus making them special? Does the fact that we treat some objects as aesthetically special, not prevent us from seeing the aesthetic qualities of other things? Those questions can make for interesting topics to explore in class or to debate.

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