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Beauty in Context

Towards an Anthropological Approach to Aesthetics

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Wilfried van Damme

This is the first study to survey the field of the anthropology of aesthetics, which during the last few decades has emerged on the cross-roads between anthropology and non-Western art scholarship.
While critically examining the available literature, thereby addressing such basic issues as the existence of aesthetic universals, the author elaborates on a central thesis which concerns the relationship between aesthetic preference and sociocultural ideals. Drawing on empirical data from several African cultures, he demonstrates that varying notions of beauty are inspired by varying sociocultural ideals, thus shedding light on the phenomenon of cultural relativism in aesthetic preference.
Emphasizing unity within diversity, the systematic anthropological approach offered in this volume invites the reader to reconsider aesthetic preference from an empirical, cross-cultural, and contextual perspective.