Research in the Anthropology of Art
Examples | Methodology | Student Resources | Glossary | Teacher Resources

  • Read the descripiton of artistic anthropological research.
  • Study the examples to see what others have done.
  • Navigate through the Steps to plan your methodology.
  • Use the Student Resources to assist in carrying out your research.

Artistic Anthropological -  Anthropology of Art is the study of the arts within their socio-cultural contexts. Anthropologists think that artistic production, even in the West, should be looked upon, not simply as applied aesthetics, but as an activity embedded in an art world , a complex set of social relationships. Anthropologists believe that it is wrong to focus on the unique art object, and ignore the complex set of human relationships which contributed to its creation.

See other types of Fine Arts research. Criticism Experimental Historical Practice-Based
Step 1 Develop a guiding question (gaining the world artistic view of a group of people) that connects to larger anthropological questions about how a culture views and produces various art forms, addresses arts of all groups are potential ethnographic topics and is answerable through ethnographic research.
Step 2

Locate and choose a field site(s)

  • Single or multiple site (including cyberspace)
  • Site(s) is relevant to guiding question
  • Negotiate entry to site

Inform members of the group of your purpose

Step 3 Participant observation through field notes, conduct interviews to learn how people reflect directly on the arts and, if necessary, collect site documents relevant to your guiding question.
Step 4

Analyze the data you have collected.  This process is ongoing and helps the fieldwork gain momentum towards useful information. After analyzing all the data, ask yourself:

  • What does our data mean?  What have we learned about this art form?
  • What can we say regarding our guiding question, or others that we may know how to ask now based on the research?
  • In short, how might we best analyze the data we have gathered? 
Step 5 Develop a performance or product, based on your interpretation of the data. 
Step 6

Develop a conclusion that must be persuasively presented and argued and is often the answer to the guiding question.  It must be: 

  1. substantive.
  2. contestable.
  3. specific.

Anthropologists can examine culture in terms of performance. Performance studies incorporate theories of drama, dance (also known as ethnochoreology or dance ethnology), art (visual anthropology), anthropology, literary (folklore), and more and more, music performance (also known as Ethnomusicology)

  • Anthropology Resources on the Web-- From the American Anthropological Association, this site gives resources for researchers and students. 
  • The Library of Congress Research Collections--One of the largest libraries has made digitized versions of collection materials available online since 1994, concentrating on its most rare collections and those unavailable anywhere else.  In addition, there are links of collections as varied as the citizens of the United States.
  • University of California Television -- This site has four video lectures on the evolutionary origins of art and the aesthetics of cultures, in particular,  Native American artifacts from the Southwest
  • Gale Reference Library--A collection of e-books from the Baltimore County School databases
Visual Arts
  • Anthropology of Art
  • The Bradshaw Foundation-- "Exploring our Past, Informing our Future"  This site examines the cultural foundations of pre-historic art.
  • Holmes Museum of Anthropology--this museum is dedicated a variety of cultures, in particular,  Native American artifacts from the Southwest
  • Visual Arts Career Guide-- Explore careers in Art with the following links to job descriptions, which include information such as daily activities, skill requirements, salary and training required.