Re: fine arts in anthropology/leaving the frame of written

Kathryn Church (
Fri, 2 Aug 1996 09:05:57 -0400

On Thu, 1 Aug 1996 13:30:42 -0400 Webera wrote:

> My main questions will be: What else can be perceived/expressed if you
> leave the frame of written language? What can the fine arts contribute to
> contemporary anthropology as the science of the "cultural other"?
> If you know somebody (including yourself) applying these methods of the
> fine arts as both means of cognition (Erkenntnis) and presentation
> (Darstellung) in contemporary anthropology (fieldwork, theoretical
> anthropology, museum, etc.) and would be interested in a
> conversation, please contact me at:
> (the capital W in Webera is important!)
> Hints for literature would also be greatly appreciated...
> Angela:

This is not an answer.... merely an augmentation of your question. I am a lurker on
the list (who knew that anthropologists were into all of this different stuff?!!!
sociologist myself). I am developing a new project which I could use help with. As

I grew up in a small town in central Alberta (Canada). Throughout my childhood, my
mother supplemented the family income by working as a seamstress; she had a
small but thriving "cottage" business which she ran from the basement of our
home. She kept track of her sewing projects on the empty pages of scribblers
which her children (me; my three brothers) brought home from school. She drew
sketches of the patterns she used, recorded her clients' measurements and pinned
fabric swatches to the pages. In this way, she documented thirty years of her

I left home more than twenty years. Haunted by my mother's business scribblers, I
have recently begun to mobilize a project around the 30 wedding dresses which
are part of her colleciton. I am organizing a one woman show of my mother's work
with this particular 'genre' which will feed into a broader piece of research. I am in
the process of locating the women whose wedding dresses were sewn by my
mother, to interview them about the creation and meaning of the dresses. I will
also interview my mother and interrogate my own childhood memories.

I think my chances are pretty good not just for collecting the dresses but also
photographs and newspaper clippings which describe the weddings themselves. I
envision an exhibition (and subsequently a book) which would include all of these
materials surrounded and supported/contrasted by text from the interviews and
other literature which I may wish to include.

At the moment I am doing a search for both funds and technical help with the show.
I could also used advice about how to work with the scribblers, photographs and
clippings, how to use them in the show and the book.

Coming back to your question, what else can be perceived/expressed if you leave
the frame of written language? Excellent question.

Any suggestions?

Kathryn Church
Post Doctoral Fellow
Faculty of Social Work
University of Toronto