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.
Western Philosophy and the Study of Aesthetics in African Cultures
This paper contributes to the historiography of the relationships between African studies and other scholarly disciplines by discussing the attention that Western studies and other scholarly disciplines by discussing the attention that Western philosophical aesthetics has paid to aesthetic views in African cultures. It addresses (i) Africanist studies in aesthetics that have appeared in three major journals of philosophical aesthetics and (ii) references to African aesthetic conceptions in surveys and recent conferences in philosophical aesthetics. It is found that, having made its initial appearance in the 1960s and 70s, the interest of Western philosophy for aesthetics in African cultures seems to have dropped in the 1980s, only to rise again in the second half of the 1990s under the influence of a more general attention to cultural pluralism in the Western humanities. References to African aesthetic views have now in fact become almost standard in handbooks and encyclopedias of philosophical aesthetics.