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The art of indigeneity: Aesthetics and competition in Mexican economies of culture

Cant, A. (2016) The art of indigeneity: Aesthetics and competition in Mexican economies of culture. Ethnos, 81 (1). pp. 152-177. ISSN 0014-1844

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2014.921218


On the basis of ethnographic research with woodcarvers in Oaxaca, Mexico, this paper investigates the role that aesthetic practices play in economic competition in cultural markets. I explain how one family has become the most successful artisans in their village by aesthetically referencing the indigenous art that is highly sought after by the North American ethnic art market. By reformulating Bourdieu's analysis of artistic fields, I argue that aesthetic competition should be theorised at the level of genres, which allow insight into how individual aesthetic innovations may transform the fields in which art is produced and circulated. I show that by referencing indigeneity, this successful family not only accesses a new market but also renders their work more authoritative than the carvings of their neighbours, which aesthetically reference Mexican ‘artesanías’ (craftwork). In so doing, they not only earn more money but also change the ways that Oaxacan woodcarvings are valued in general.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:86147
Publisher:Taylor & Francis


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