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Abíódún, Rowland, , . 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.
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Added by: Hans Maes, Contributed by:

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.

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Appiah, Kwame Anthony, , . Whose Culture Is It, Anyway?
2007, in Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. New York, London: W. W. Nortion & Company.
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes, Contributed by:

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.

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Coleman, Elizabeth Burns, , . 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.
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes, Contributed by:

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.

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Eva Kit Wah Man, , . Issues of Contemporary Art and Aesthetics in Chinese Context
2015, Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
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Added by: Meilin Chinn, Contributed by:

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:

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Fausto-Sterling, Anne, , . Sex/Gender: Biology in a Social world
2012, Routledge.
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Added by: Benny Goldberg, Contributed by:

Publisher’s Note: Sex/Gender presents a relatively new way to think about how biological difference can be produced over time in response to different environmental and social experiences.

This book gives a clearly written explanation of the biological and cultural underpinnings of gender. Anne Fausto-Sterling provides an introduction to the biochemistry, neurobiology, and social construction of gender with expertise and humor in a style accessible to a wide variety of readers. In addition to the basics, Sex/Gender ponders the moral, ethical, social and political side to this inescapable subject.

Comment: This is a good text for courses in philosophy of science dealing with biology, feminist philosophy (and feminist philosophy of science), as well as courses dealing with issues of sex and gender. While it uses a lot of scientific detail, it is suitable for advanced undergraduates regardless of major.

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Harris, Leonard (ed.), , . The Critical Pragmatism of Alain Locke a Reader on Value Theory, Aesthetics, Community, Culture, Race, and Education
1999, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Lydia Patton

Publisher’s Note: In its comprehensive overview of Alain Locke’s pragmatist philosophy this book captures the radical implications of Locke’s approach within pragmatism, the critical temper embedded in Locke’s works, the central role of power and empowerment of the oppressed and the concept of broad democracy Locke employed

Comment: Alain Locke (1885-1954) founded the philosophy department at Howard University. (The department is still housed in Locke hall, named for Alain, not John!) He was a pragmatist philosopher, who wrote on cultural relativism, pragmatism, and values. He is best known for his role as an aesthetic scholar of the Harlem Renaissance, but this work has deep connections to his work on the theory of race, on value theory and cultural relativism, and on pragmatism. (See the introductions to the anthologies above for more details.) Locke is an under-appreciated scholar of historical and philosophical significance. His work would provide excellent readings for courses in value theory, ethics and meta-ethics, aesthetics, pragmatism, and the philosophy of race, but would also be interesting reading for courses in epistemology, for instance, given his original stance on relativism, and his pragmatism about truth.

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Jeffers, Chike, , . The Ethics and Politics of Cultural Preservation
2015, Journal of Value Inquiry 49(1-2): 205-220.
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes, Contributed by:

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.

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Masuda, Takahiko, , 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.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

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.

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Narayan, Uma, , . Undoing the ‘Package Picture’ of Cultures
2004, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 25 (4): 1083-1086.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by: Nadia Mehdi

Abstract: Many feminists of color have demonstrated the need to take into account differences among women to avoid hegemonic gender-essentialist analyses that represent the problems and interests of privileged women as paradigmatic. As feminist agendas become global,  there is growing feminist concern to consider national and cultural differences among women. However, in attempting to take seriously these cultural differences, many feminists risk replacing gender-essentialist analyses with culturally essentialist analyses that replicate problematic colonialist notions about the cultural differences between “Western culture” and “non-Western cultures” and the women who inhabit them (Narayan 1998). Seemingly universal essentialist generalizations about “all women” are replaced by culture-specific essentialist generalizations that depend on totalizing categories such as “Western culture,’ “non-Western cultures,” “Indian women,” and “Muslim women.” The picture of the “cultures” attributed to these groups of women remains fundamentally essentialist, depicting as homogeneous groups of heterogeneous peoples whose values, ways of life, and political commitments are internally diverge.

Comment: This text can be used to teach about the pitfalls of imperialist feminism such as Susan M. Okin’s as well as gender and cultural essentialism. It would also be excellent on any courses that attempt to discuss cultural value or cultural heritage as it complicates the idea of cultures as discrete, bounded and unified entities.

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Root, Deborah, , . Fat-Eaters and Aesthetes: The Politics of Display
1996, in Cannibal Culture: Art, Appropriation, and the Commodification of Difference. USA: Westview Press.
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes, Contributed by:

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.”

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Ruether, Rosemary R., , . 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.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

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.

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Walsh, Andrea N., , Dominic McIver Lopes. Objects of Appropriation
2012, In Young, James O., and Conrad G. Brunk, eds. The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation: Blackwell Publishing.
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes, Contributed by:

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.

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