The theme of this panel is the relationship between the anthropology of art and art history. It is increasingly becoming recognised that in order to understand the place of art in world history, an interdisciplinary approach is required.
The theme of this symposium is the relationship between the anthropology of art and art history. It is increasingly becoming recognised that in order to understand the place of art in world history an interdisciplinary approach is required. In the late nineteenth century anthropology and art history were closely allied disciplines, emerging out of European interest in the cultures of other places and times. However as the disciplines of art history and anthropology continued to develop their disciplinary identities the dialogue between them became less productive. For much of the twentieth century the focus of anthropology shifted away from material culture. Art as a research topic began to come back into anthropology in the latter decades of the twentieth century, with the developing interest in meaning and symbolism and then on the aesthetic and sensual dimension of culture. Complementary processes occurred in the domain of art history and had a similar effect of bringing the disciplines more into conversation with one another. Bringing art objects broadly defined together in the context of a more global comparative anthropological art history can be highly productive, challenging presuppositions that separate people from each other too much in space and time. Broader comparative analyses are likely to produce insights into art across cultures and show commonalities in the ways in which humans beings use aesthetic forms as a means of acting and creating meaning and value.