This module critically surveys anthropological approaches to creativity and creative expression—selected from research on creativity itself, and on the anthropology of art and literature (both oral and written). We explore three fields of creative practice as they relate to contemporary anthropology. 1) We review classic approaches to the anthropology of art, in both non-Western and Western contexts, with reference to selected cultural and artistic traditions and artworks. We assess recent breakthroughs which challenge the borders between artistic and ethnographic discourse, exploring how the ethnographic encounter can be rethought via dialogue with contemporary artists. 2) We review the anthropology of literature, and assess both pioneering forms of literary expression in the work of anthropologists, and the output of anthropological practitioners of literary fiction and poetry. 3) We examine how anthropology itself can be conceptualised as the creative expression of an encounter with others, lived experience, and the unknown, and explore the implications for anthropological modes of representation (including public anthropology). Students have the option to develop a creative project during the module that builds on this training, and can submit both academic and practice-led creative anthropological research as their assessment.
Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 128
Total study hours: 150
Resting in 2022-23
BSc Anthropology and associated programmes
BA Social Anthropology and associated programmes
Available as an elective module.
Method of assessment
Essay (2500 words) (50%)
Essay (2500 words) (50%) OR Creative Project (50%)
Reassessment: Like for like
Archetti, E. (ed) 1993. Exploring the Written: Anthropology and the Multiplicity of Writing. Oslo: Scandinavian University Press.
Benson, P. 1993.(ed) Anthropology and Literature. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
De Angelis, R. (ed) 2002. Between Anthropology and Literature. London: Routledge.
Gell, A. 1998. Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Marcus, G. And F. Myers. (eds) 1996. The Traffic in Culture: Refiguring Art and Anthropology. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Narayan, K. 2012. Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Schneider, A and C. Wright. 2013. Anthropology and Art Practice. London: Bloomsbury.
Schwab, G. 2012. Imaginary Ethnographies: Literature, Culture, and Subjectivity. New York: Columbia University Press.
Stewart, K. 2007. Ordinary Affects. Durham: Duke University Press.
Svasek, M. 2007. Anthropology, Art and Cultural Production. London: Pluto Press.
See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
8.1 be conversant in the main themes and trends of the anthropological literature on creativity and creative expression (e.g. Western approaches to creativity and material culture; the ethnographic turn in contemporary art practice; the impact of new technologies on creative practice);
8.2 have acquired a selective critical understanding of the historical development of the anthropological literature on creativity and creativity expression;
8.3 have cultivated an understanding of the historical depth and cultural diversity of creative practices, in both Western and non-Western societies, and how anthropologists have approached their study;
8.4 situate and analyse from an anthropological perspective the topics of creativity, creative expression and the arts in relation to relevant social, and historical contexts; and to develop awareness of the strengths and limitations of such an approach compared to other disciplinary perspectives on creativity and creative expression;
8.5 be knowledgeable about key theoretical contributions of anthropologists working on creativity, art and literature to the wider social sciences;
8.6 understand the impact of key works in the anthropology of creativity on modes of representation;
8.7 analyse and communicate their understanding of anthropological texts on creativity in written form;
8.8 construct coherent and logical arguments, which combine theoretical writings with the discussion of ethnographic data.
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