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Unpacking Culture: Art and Commodity in Colonial and Postcolonial Worlds Paperback – Jan 30 1999


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"An outstanding set of studies that work well with each other to produce truly substantial and rich insights into the making and consuming of art in the colonial and post-colonial world."—Susan S. Bean, Curator, Peabody Essex Museum

About the Author

Ruth B. Phillips is Director of the Museum of Anthropology and Professor of Art History and Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. She is the author of Representing Women: Sande Masquerade of the Mende of Sierra Leone (1990) and Trading Identities: Native Art and the Souvenir in Northeastern North America, 1700-1900 (1998). Christopher B. Steiner is Lucy C. McDannel '22 Associate Professor of Art History and Director of Museum Studies at Connecticut College. He is the author of African Art in Transit (1994) and coeditor of Perspectives on Africa: A Reader in Culture, History, and Representation (1997).


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Charles Mackay's 1859 travel book, like those of other contemporary visitors to North America, contains a description of his trip to Quebec City, the "picturesque" Montmorency Falls, and the nearby village of Lorette. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Great collection on ethnic art & culture Nov. 28 2011
By Frederic - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Although originally published in 1999, this volume remains one of the best collections on commodified ethnic arts - that is to say, ethnic arts that have been commodified through tourism and collecting. The pieces were all produced for this volume (some initially for a conference, those supplemented by others solicited to broaden the scope of the published volume), and the selection, editing and production are excellent. After two introductory essays, the contents are divided into six sections: Constructing the Other: Production as Negotiation; Authenticity: The Problem of Mechanical Reproduction; Artistic Innovation and the Discourses of Identity; (Re)Fashioning Gender and Stereotype in Touristic Production; Collecting Culture and Cultures of Collecting; and Staging Tourist Art: Contexts for Cultural Conservation. Most chapters are illustrated, with B&W photographs that are well reproduced. The volume would be of interest for courses or individual reading in tourism and tourist arts, ethnic art, and the commodification of traditional cultures.

While North America is most strongly represented (Inuit, Karuk, Lakota, Pueblo, NWC, Huron), other areas include Sepik art of PNG, printed images from India, batak textiles of Indonesia, Samburu and Mangbetu arts from Africa, Chinese textiles, and Marquesan carvings and tapa cloth. While questions of authenticity and commodification are (unsurprisingly) central to most of the discussions, they do not overwhelm nor do they seem completely dated. One of my favorite pieces, "My Father's Business" by Frank Ettawageshik, provides a rarely available Native perspective on the trade.


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