Aesthetics and Anthropology : Cogitations book cover
1st Edition

Aesthetics and Anthropology

ISBN 9781350168824
Published November 30, 2021 by Routledge
168 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book focuses on the reconfiguration of aesthetic anthropology into an anthropological problem of cogitation, opening up a fascinating new dialogue between the domains of anthropology, philosophy, and art. Tarek Elhaik embarks on an inquiry composed of a series of cogitations based on fieldwork in an ecology of artistic and scientific practices: from conceptual art exhibitions to architectural environments; from photographic montages to the videotaping of spirit seances; and from artistic interventions in natural history museums to ongoing dialogues between performance artists and marine scientists. The chapters examine the image-work, ethical demands, and aesthetic struggles of interlocutors including artists Mathias Goeritz, Mounir Fatmi, Silvia Gruner, Joan Jonas, and Patricia Lagarde.

Table of Contents


Prelude: The Cogitator / Anthropology as Averroism

1 The Art of Cogitation

2 Mathias Goeritz / Concrete Abstractions

3 Silvia Gruner / Desperate Playfulness

4 Mounir Fatmi / Cerebral Compositions

5 Patricia Lagarde / A Naturalist’s Blues

6 Marine Cogitations


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Tarek Elhaik is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis, USA, and the author of The Incurable Image: Curating Post-Mexican Film and Media Arts (Edinburgh U. Press, 2016). He is also the founder of AIL: Anthropology Image Lab.


"Aesthetics and Anthropology is radiant; each passage vibrates. Tarek Elhaik writes in a voice that is at once playful and deeply committed. Reading Aesthetics and Anthropology is like being put under a spell. It swirls with biology, mysticism, and art on scales that range from the personal to the planetary. Even with hints of Aby Warburg, Georges Didi-Huberman, or even Georges Bataille, it is hard to compare this book to any other; its wild geographies and cogitations are its own." - Todd Meyers, McGill University, Canada

"An imaginative trip from medieval philosophy to conceptual art following the practice of cogitation. Elhaik’s dialogue with aesthetics in contemporary art and architecture, advances anthropology as one form of curatorial practice. Offering a powerful critique to the ontological turn and its call for pre-modern times, the author provides a strong argument for reimagining anthropology as both conceptual and image-work interventions in the field of the arts and sciences. In the process, the whole anthropological enterprise, as we know it, is radically reconfigured and, hopefully, cured from its ethnos-centered, nostalgic and binary maladies." - X. Andrade, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá