Anthropology. Playing with dolls: Art, effigy, agency

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract

This is a commissioned essay for a new volume on The Theories and Methods of Art History by Wiley-Blackwell including contributors: Geraldine Johnson, Catherine Soussloff, Robert Williams, Malcolm Baker, Paul Duro, Eugene Wang, Alixe Bovey, Erna Fiorentini, Alina Payne, Donald Preziosi, Jason Gaiger, Jaynie Anderson, Andrea PInotti, Elizabeth Sears, Elizabeth Mansfield, Amelia Jones, Margaret Iversen, Ella Hendriks, Maarten van Bommel, Timothy Murray, Mary Roberts, Hal Foster, Richard Howells, Steven Nelson, Andrew Parker, Alistair Rider.

To approach the question of anthropology's relations with art history, this essay takes up the figure of the 'doll'. The figure of the doll is of course manifold, to be found across world cultures and chronological periods. Dolls may be objects of religious and ancestral worship as well as play, but also of magic and witchcraft. They are carriers of cultural heritage, and material embodiments of human relationships of all forms. As such, the doll raises inter-related questions between the disciplines of Anthropology and the History of Art that trouble the boundaries of the 'art' category. Beginning with Aby Warburg's study of kachina dolls and masks, Alfred Gell’s celebrated anthropological study of art objects as social agents, Claude Levi-Strauss’ analysis of masks as material manifestations of human interaction, I take the case of the doll to consider art’s ‘agency’, that is, its ability to elicit human response as if by a living presence, through a cultural process of surrogacy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Companion to the Theories and Methods of Art History
EditorsGeraldine Johnson
PublisherWiley-Blackwell
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 12 Aug 2017

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