The Value of Aesthetics: Oaxacan Woodcarvers in Global Economies of Culture

The Value of Aesthetics: Oaxacan Woodcarvers in Global Economies of Culture

by Alanna Cant

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Unlike many other handicrafts in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, which have long cultural and historical trajectories, Oaxacan woodcarving began in the second half of the twentieth century and has always been done for the commercial market. In The Value of Aesthetics, Alanna Cant explores how one family’s workshop in the village of San Martín Tilcajete has become the most critically and economically successful, surpassing those of neighbors who use similar materials and techniques. The dominance of this family is tied to their ability to produce a new aesthetic that appeals to three key “economies of culture”: the tourist market for souvenirs, the national market for traditional Mexican artesanías, and the international market for indigenous art.

Offering a new analytical model by which anthropologists can approach visual aesthetics and conceptualize the power of artworks as socially active objects, The Value of Aesthetics shows how aesthetic practices produce and redefine social and political relationships. By investigating the links between aesthetics and issues of production, authorship, ownership, and identity, Cant shows aesthetic change to be a process that ultimately repackages everyday life into commodified objects in Oaxaca.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781477318836
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Publication date: 09/01/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 232
File size: 16 MB
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About the Author

A social anthropologist, Alanna Cant is a research associate at the University of Kent and holds a doctorate from the London School of Economics. In addition to her work with artisans, she has conducted research on contemporary Catholicism and the restoration of a sixteenth-century Dominican monastery in rural Oaxaca. She has studied and worked in anthropology in Canada, Germany, Norway, and the United Kingdom, and her findings have appeared in the volume Critical Craft: Technology, Globalization, and Capitalism as well as Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, Visual Anthropology, and The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. The Alluring Thing Itself
  • Chapter 2. Aesthetics of Work in Woodcarving
  • Chapter 3. Authorship and Its Consequences
  • Chapter 4. Artesanías into Ethnic Art
  • Chapter 5. The Art of Indigeneity
  • Chapter 6. The Allure of Art and Intellectual Property
  • Conclusion: At the End of the Aura
  • Appendix: A Note on Names
  • References
  • Index

What People are Saying About This

W. Warner Wood

"This adeptly argued book brings a freshtheoretical orientation to the discussion of Oaxacan crafts, opening it up to the wider material culture scholarship."

Michael Chibnik

"A fascinating, careful ethnography with lucid discussions of relevant theories of anthropology and aesthetics."

Customer Reviews