Search - List of Books by Ellen Dissanayake
is an independent scholar whose work focuses on the anthropological exploration of art and culture. She is credited for re-defining art as 'making special'; that is, art making involves taking something out of its everyday use and context and making it somehow special.
As she states in her preface to 1995's Homo Aestheticus
At first glance, the fact that the arts and related aesthetic attitudes vary so widely from one society to another would seem to suggest that they are wholly learned or "cultural" in origin rather than, as I will show, also biological or "natural". One can make an analogy with language: learning to speak is a universal, innate predisposition for all children even though individual children learn the particular language of the people among whom they are nurtured. Similarly, art can be regarded as a natural, general proclivity that manifests itself in culturally learned specifics such as dances, songs, performances, visual display, and poetic speech.
Dissanayake's birth name was Ellen Franzen; she was born in Illinois and raised in Walla Walla, Washington, where her father was an engineer and her mother a homemaker. She received a B.A. degree from Washington State University in 1957. She lives in Seattle, and is affiliated with the University of Washington. She has taught at the New School for Social Research in New York City, the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, Sarah Lawrence College, the National Arts School in Papua New Guinea, and the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. In 1997 she was a visiting professor at Ball State University in Indiana, and the following year taught at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.
Her work emerged out of her lived experience in the countries Sri Lanka, Nigeria, India, Madagascar, and Papua New Guinea, where she observed first-hand the cultural differences and attitudes toward art and culture amongst this variety of peoples.
Total Books: 6
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