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Abíódún, Rowland, and . Àkó-graphy: Òwò Portraits

2013, in: John Peffer and Elisabeth L. Cameron (eds.), Portraiture & Photography in Africa, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, pp. 287-312.

Summary: Argues that the introduction of photography did not significantly interfere with, or terminate, the àkó legacy of portraiture. Shows instead that the stylistic elements of the àkó life-size burial effigy – a sculpted portrait that attempts to capture the physical likeness, identity, character, social status of a deceased parent – informed the photographic traditional formal portrait in Òwò, Nigeria.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture, as well as depiction and representation in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Mamah, Carved, life-size, fully dressed second-burial effigy for Madam Aládé, EÌpelè- Òwò, Nigeria (1972)

Striking example of the practice. Demonstrates how the àkó tradition appears to have influenced the way elderly people posed for photographs.

Appiah, Kwame Anthony, and . Whose Culture Is It, Anyway?

2007, in Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. New York, London: W. W. Nortion & Company.

Summary: In this chapter, Appiah offers a cosmopolitan critique of the concept of cultural property/patrimony. By emphasizing the common features of our humanity and the tenuousness of certain cultural identity claims, he puts pressure on conceptions of cultural property that would exclude others, particularly those that have a nationalist character. He raises important philosophical questions about cultural continuity over time, and explores how the location of art can best facilitate its value for humanity. In general, he supports a cosmopolitan/internationalist approach to cultural property that promotes the exchange of cultural products around the world.

Comment: This text offers a clear and effective overview of philosophical issues concerning cultural property, and uses a range of cultural and artistic examples. It offers a concise summary of the legal scholar John Merryman's classic article in support of internationalism about cultural property (not included in this curriculum). It pairs well with Lindsay's article.

Coleman, Elizabeth Burns, and . Cultural Property and Collective Identity

2006, In Returning (to) Communities: Theory, Culture and Political Practice of the Communal, edited by Stefan Herbrechter and Michael Higgins: Brill.

Summary: This short paper examines the relationship between cultural property and collective identity through a close analysis of a paper by Richard Handler that questions such a relationship. In particular, Handler raises a version of common worries about the lack of cultural group continuity over time: because cultures are constantly changing, this fact is thought to undermine claims about the relationship between cultural identity and cultural property, as well as subsequent repatriation requests. Coleman pushes back against this objection by questioning what kind of identity or sameness is actually required for cultural continuity over time.

Comment: Though focused on a reading that is not included in this curriculum, this text pairs well with, for instance, the Appiah, Thompson, or Young readings in this module, or any other article that raises questions about cultural continuity over time.

Eva Kit Wah Man, and . Issues of Contemporary Art and Aesthetics in Chinese Context

2015, Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Publisher’s Note: This book discusses how China’s transformations in the last century have shaped its arts and its philosophical aesthetics. For instance, how have political, economic and cultural changes shaped its aesthetic developments? Further, how have its long-standing beliefs and traditions clashed with modernizing desires and forces, and how have these changes materialized in artistic manifestations? In addition to answering these questions, this book also brings Chinese philosophical concepts on aesthetics into dialogue with those of the West, making an important contribution to the fields of art, comparative aesthetics and philosophy.

Comment: A timely discussion of the influence of the last century’s political, economic, and cultural changes in China upon its philosophical aesthetics. Man’s book addresses a number of key neglected topics of comparative aesthetics between China and the West, contemporary aesthetics and art in Hong Kong, the relation of gender and art in the politics of identity, and the role of tradition in new creative practices. Chapter 4 introduces the leaders of the major schools of aesthetics in new China, including Li Zehou. This text is best used in a comparative aesthetics context, especially in discussions of contemporary aesthetic mediums.

Related reading:

Jeffers, Chike, and . The Ethics and Politics of Cultural Preservation

2015, Journal of Value Inquiry 49(1-2): 205-220.

Summary: Jeffers offers an account of the moral permissibility, and moreover, praiseworthiness of cultural preservation for the sake of the continued existence of cultural groups. He defends this argument against challenges about inauthenticity and incoherence leveled by Jeremy Waldron and Sam Scheffler. In a political context, Jeffers argues that cultural preservation can be obligatory as a component of resistance against colonialism and racism.

Comment: This text is readily applicable to a variety of cultural practices that constitute part of a cultural heritage or practice. It offers thoughtful considerations for discussion concerning the reasons one might have to engage (or not) in a particular cultural artistic practice.

Masuda, Takahiko, and others. Culture and aesthetic preference: comparing the attention to context of East Asians and Americans

2008, Personality and social psychology bulletin 34(9): 1260-1275.

Abstract: Prior research indicates that East Asians are more sen- sitive to contextual information than Westerners. This article explored aesthetics to examine whether cultural variations were observable in art and photography. Study 1 analyzed traditional artistic styles using archival data in representative museums. Study 2 investigated how contemporary East Asians and Westerners draw landscape pictures and take portrait photographs. Study 3 further investigated aesthetic preferences for portrait photographs. The results suggest that (a) traditional East Asian art has predominantly context-inclusive styles, whereas Western art has predominantly object- focused styles, and (b) contemporary members of East Asian and Western cultures maintain these culturally shaped aesthetic orientations. The findings can be explained by the relation among attention, cultural resources, and aesthetic preference.

Comment: This text is an excellent example of experimental aesthetics and psychology of art: it presents evidence that what seems natural or aesthetically pleasing can differ across cultures. This makes it useful in classes focusing on non-Western art or on the universality vs. relativity of taste. Since the text is focused on the psychology, it will likely be best used as a background reading alongside more philosophical works.

Root, Deborah, and . Fat-Eaters and Aesthetes: The Politics of Display

1996, in Cannibal Culture: Art, Appropriation, and the Commodification of Difference. USA: Westview Press.

Summary: Root employs Méxica mythology as a lens for revealing the consumptive, and even cannibalistic, character of power. In particular, she points to the way colonial power sets up Westerners as “experts” and arbiters of art and culture, presenting appreciation of culture as a pretext for violence and control.

Comment: This chapter serves as an introduction to Root's booklength study of these themes, so the presentation only gestures at these relationships and provides a brief selection of examples that illustrate them. However, if can be useful for raising initial questions about the relationships among power, art, and culture. It provides a counterpoint to a more sanguine perspective on cross-cultural appreciation expressed by Thomas Heyd in "Rock Art Aesthetics and Cultural Appropriation."

Ruether, Rosemary R., and . Symbolic and Social Connections of the Oppression of Women and the Domination of Nature

1999, in Adams, C. J. (eds), Ecofeminism and the sacred, New York: Continuum.

Comment: This text offers an introduction to ecofeminism. It discusses the history of associating maleness with culture and femaleness with nature and identifies some of the issues which led to the current ecological crisis. The text has the potential to challenge received views and inspire a lively discussion, and as such it is best used as an introductory text in classes on environmental ethics and on feminist ethics.


Walsh, Andrea N., and Dominic McIver Lopes. Objects of Appropriation

2012, In Young, James O., and Conrad G. Brunk, eds. The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation: Blackwell Publishing.

Summary: Walsh and Lopes argue that some appropriation can be beneficial and productive: in particular, the appropriation of elements of dominant culture by members of culturally marginalized groups. They explore this idea through discussion of such appropriative artwork by a number of contemporary First Nations artists, which they argue challenges “the assumed alignment of appropriator with oppressor and appropriatee with victim”(227).

Comment: This text serves as a useful counterpoint to the general framework employed in much of the other cultural appropriation literature. It is also a useful selection for course units focusing on art practice.