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Astonishment and Evocation

Astonishment and Evocation: The Spell of Culture in Art and Anthropology

Ivo Strecker
Markus Verne
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 212
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  • Book Info
    Astonishment and Evocation
    Book Description:

    All societies are shaped by arts, media, and other persuasive practices that can awe, captivate, enchant or otherwise seem to cast a spell on the audience. Likewise, scholarship itself often is driven by a sense of wonder and a willingness to be open to what lies beyond the obvious. This book broadens and deepens this perspective. Inspired by Stephen Tyler's view of ethnography as an art of evocation, international scholars from the fields of aesthetics, anthropology, and rhetoric explore the spellbinding power of elusive meanings as people experience them in daily life and while gazing at works of art, watching films or studying other cultures. The book is divided into three parts covering the evocative power of visual art, the immersion in ritual and performance, and the reading, writing, and interpretation of texts. Taken as a whole, the contributions to the book demonstrate howastonishmentandevocationdeserve an important place in the conceptual repertoire of the human sciences.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-936-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, Language & Literature, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Ivo Strecker and Markus Verne
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)
    Ivo Strecker and Markus Verne

    Wonder and astonishment lie at the heart of scholarship, as René Descartes noted inThe Passions of the Soul: “When the first encounter with some object surprises us, and we judge it to be new or very different from what we formerly knew, or from what we suppose it ought to be, that causes us to wonder and be surprised; and because that may happen before we in any way know whether this object is agreeable to us or is not so, it appears to me that wonder is the first of all the passions” (1972: 358).

    Similarly, Margaret Mead...

  6. Part I Image

    • CHAPTER 1 Do Pictures Stare? Thoughts about Six Elements of Attention
      (pp. 23-26)
      Todd Oakley

      Here I want to recount a curious experience that helped me in my ongoing attempt to envision a theory of attention. I was touring the famous Frick Gallery on East Seventieth Street overlooking Fifth Avenue and Central Park in New York City. As I entered the Living Hall—an oak-paneled room at the center of the gallery housing many of Henry Clay Frick’s most famous acquisitions—and oriented myself toward the fireplace, I took notice of three paintings: El Greco’s painting of St. Jerome (circa 1590) hanging directly above the fireplace mantle flanked by a portrait of Sir Thomas More...

    • CHAPTER 2 Gazing at Paintings and the Evocation of Life
      (pp. 27-40)
      Philippe-Joseph Salazar

      I have kept a diary since I was born. That is, since I reached what Michel Leiris calls “manhood,”l’âge d’homme(Leiris 1992). Ever since, I have looked at pictures, often. And listened to opera, often. And lived most of my years away from home, thedomuswhere we get tamed—domus, “home,” and domare, “to tame,” are analogous in Latin, and who would contest that in home there is domination?

      So, when do you begin a diary, when do you decide to figure out yourself for yourself, and when do you tell yourselfFrom now on,I will live...

    • CHAPTER 3 Tangled Up in Blue: Symbolism and Evocation
      (pp. 41-51)
      Boris Wiseman

      As Claude Lévi-Strauss has remarked in the “Overture” toThe Raw and the Cooked(1970: 26), music’s ability to evoke “similar ideas in different brains” (the phrase is taken from Baudelaire’s essay on Wagner) is one of the supreme enigmas that still faces the study of culture today. It is a question that has intrigued thinkers at least since the Greeks, for it confronts us with the problem of a nonreferential language. The pioneers of abstract art, among them Kandinsky, grappled with a similar problem at the start of the twentieth century. How can a painting renounce figuration, they asked,...

    • CHAPTER 4 Co-Presence, Astonishment, and Evocation in Cinematography
      (pp. 52-60)
      Ivo Strecker

      Here I like to introduce the notion ofco-presence, which has much to do with astonishment, evocation, and the spell of culture. In the past, when I edited my own films or watched those made by others, I often wondered about the evocative power of different, seemingly unrelated, or only indirectly related phenomena in particular scenes. To give some examples:

      (1) I had filmed Hamar initiates painting one another’s faces. Later, when editing, and then again, when I first saw the film on a big screen, I was particularly surprised and fascinated by a sequence where the wind gently moves...

  7. Part II Performance

    • CHAPTER 5 Captivated by Ritual: Visceral Visitations and the Evocation of Community
      (pp. 63-76)
      Klaus-Peter Köpping

      A nice case of astonishment is depicted in Bob Connally and Robin Anderson’s filmFirst Contact(1983), which shows the response of New Guinean Highlanders who had never encountered white people. While at the beginning the whites were perceived by the New Guinea Highlanders as uncanny, as ghost-or god-like, marvelous creatures, the empirical proof that theyshatmade them rethink and newly categorize the visitors as human like themselves. This empiricism overcame the astonishment and led to a renegotiation of the relationships.

      It is this sense of wonder that lies at the very roots of the first historically documented ethnographer’s...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Spell of Riddles Among the Witoto
      (pp. 77-96)
      Jürg Gasché

      I am pleased to contribute to this volume on astonishment and evocation a few pages extracted from my field notes containing transcriptions, translations, linguistic notes, and ethnographic commentaries on a class of songs intended to challenge the cognitive, rhetorical, speculative, and moral capacities of a festival owner among the Amazonian Witoto: the riddle songs. These are accompanied by an introduction situating them within the ritual context of Witoto society, which has been my interlocutor and field of learning for over thirty years. I limit myself to a strictly ethnographic study, without entering into broader scientific debates concerning the discursive genre...

    • CHAPTER 7 Sounds of the Past: Music, History, and Astonishment
      (pp. 97-110)
      Markus Verne

      The song begins with the clacking sound of anangklung, an Indonesian rattle made of bamboo, setting at once both the beat and the key of the song. A moment later an acoustic guitar comes in with a characteristic phrase oscillating between the keynote and the dominant, anticipating the repetitive, loop-like, Asian character of the title. Then, like a clarion call, comes the first chant of Hanitra and her sister Noro, followed by an intro on the bass. The e-guitar, an Indonesianghendang-drum, and themarovany, a Malagasy zither, join in as the Indonesian flutes rise to their first moaning...

    • CHAPTER 8 Tears, Not So Idle Tears: “Time Binding,” Lachrymose Emotionality, and Ethnographic Disambiguation
      (pp. 111-130)
      James W. Fernandez

      For the anthropologist inevitably anchored in all things human there are several introductory and contextualizing references to our subject matter in this essay, which treats, however briefly, of the place and ponderability of the emotions in culture, which is to say the challenges to our ethnographic task of their disambiguation. First of all, there is the resonance of this subject matter with Darwin’s classic tomeThe Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals(1872) and what he argues there, and secondly there is the more complex matter of the differences between cultures in giving access to tearfulness and what...

  8. Part III Text

    • CHAPTER 9 Stones, Drumbeats, and Footprints in the Writing of the Other
      (pp. 133-145)
      Dennis Tedlock

      Among the Maya of Yucatán, there was an era when the completion of measured periods of time was marked by the dedication of stone monuments. A period lasting 360k’in, literally “suns,” was called a tun, literally a “stone.” But it happens that the term for a slit drum istunk’ul(in whichtunis onomatopoeic) and that slit drums were played at dedications. It also happens that whentun, in its sense as a period of 360 suns, was written on thelakam tunor “tall stones” that were dedicated to the sound of atunk’ul, one of the...

    • CHAPTER 10 The Translation of the Said and the Unsaid in Sikkanese Ritual Texts
      (pp. 146-163)
      E. Douglas Lewis

      Like most ethnographers, I have written in the field—field notes, letters, even, in later years, ethnographic essays, papers, reports. But to my mind the most interesting and challenging thing I have done in the field in the way of words on paper is reading the writing of those among whom I have done research, the peoples of the Regency of Sikka of the island of Flores in eastern Indonesia.¹ Since 1994 I have been especially interested in the written works of two men who might well have been my most important informants had they not died, in one case,...

    • CHAPTER 11 Ethnographic Evocations and Evocative Ethnographies
      (pp. 164-179)
      Barbara Tedlock

      I hear, tell, see, and inscribe stories. They lurk inside conversations with Mayan women returning from market holding netted baskets overflowing with squawking chickens. Stories burst forth in the sharing of a pink kola nut with a Yoruba woman on a 747 lazily circling the island of Manhattan. Chanted songs and stories swell up inside a Mongolian felt-lined circular tent filled with redand-gold lacquered chests, Chinese bonze divinatory mirrors, reindeer-hide tambourine drums, and wispy spirit placements pinned to photographs.

      An elder in a folded headscarf, with a striped Pendleton blanket across his shoulders, stares through midnight snow at masked dancers...

    • CHAPTER 12 Reading Public Culture: Reason and Excess in the Newspaper
      (pp. 180-189)
      Robert Hariman

      I’m on vacation at a cabin on the shore of a beautiful lake. The water shimmers in the morning light, doves coo in the warm summer air, and life is good. So what do I do? I get in my car to drive to the nearest town to buy a newspaper. As much as I love being at the lake, I’m also going through withdrawal from my daily routine. At the small town grocery store I pick up every paper they’ve got: the regional large city daily, the nearest small city daily, the local weekly, the area shopping weekly, and,...

  9. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 190-192)
  10. Index
    (pp. 193-201)