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The Traffic in Culture

Refiguring Art and Anthropology

George E. Marcus (Editor), Fred R. Myers (Editor)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 392 pages
ISBN: 9780520088474
December 1995
$36.95, £27.95
The essays in this collection signal a new relationship between anthropology and the study of art. The authors explore the boundaries and affinities between art, anthropology, representation, and culture, casting a critical, ethnographic light on the art worlds of the contemporary West and their "traffic" in non-Western objects.

Starting from the premise that the traditional anthropology of art has been developed within categories and practices of Western art worlds themselves, this volume develops a new framework for understanding how western art—its avant-gardes, scholars, commentators, and collectors—have appropriated anthropological subjects like the "primitive" and the "exotic other." The success of Australian Aboriginal acrylic paintings in the New York art world prompts Fred Myers to explore the circulation of indigenous art in the international market. Steven Feld looks at the contemporary world beat music scene and the commodification of remote music cultures. Carol Vance takes on the contentious struggles over art, censorship, obscenity, and the National Endowment for the Arts in the United States. George Marcus looks at the meaning of new, oppositional artwork in the context of the institutionalization of the avant-garde and postmodernism more generally.

In contrast to a previous anthropology of art concerned with representing non-Western objects to Western audiences, this volume uncovers the practices and processes that drive the Western art world itself.
Fred R. Myers, Representing Culture: The Production of Discourse for Aboriginal Acylic Paintings
Steve Feld, From Schizophonia to Schismogenesis:The Discourses and Practices of World Music and World Beat
Lynn Hart, Three Walls: Regional Aesthetics and the International Art World
Christopher B. Steiner, The Art of the Trade: On the Creation of Value and Authenticity in the African Art Market
Molly H. Mullin, The Patronage of Difference: Making Indian Art "Art, Not Ethnology"
George E. Marcus, The Power of Contemporary Work in an American Art Tradition to Illuminate its Own Power Relations
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Confusing Pleasures
Judith L. Goldstein, The Female Aesthetic Community
Nancy Sullivan, Inside Trading: Postmodernism and the Social Drama of Sunflowers in the 1980s Art World
Carol S. Vance, Four Essays
Hal Foster, The Artist as Ethnographer?
George E. Marcus is Professor of Anthropology at Rice University and the coeditor (with James Clifford) of Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (California, 1986). Fred R. Myers is Professor of Anthropology at New York University and author of Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self: Sentiment, Place, and Politics among Western Desert Aborigines (California, 1991).
"The Traffic in Culture takes us along exciting new avenues in the investigation of art and society, global encounter, and the marketing of culture. These essays will become required reading to scholars in fields as diverse as art history, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies."—Suzanne Preston Blier, Harvard University

"These essays break new ground in charting out a critical ethnography of art. They address the complexities of cultural difference while ceasing to respect the boundary between 'Western' and 'non-Western' art which has defined the scope of the anthropology of art for too long. This is contemporary critical anthropology at its best."—Nicholas Thomas, Australian National University

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