Culture Theory from Ethics to Aesthetics: The Maquet Legacy

DOI: 10.14673/IJA201521009
Published in Int. Journal of Anthropology – Vol. 30 – n.2 – 2015

Key words: epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, culture, style.

As the founder and most accomplished practitioner of aesthetic anthropology, Jacques Maquet has contributed to the discipline in major and enduring ways. In this paper, his contributions are framed in an interdisciplinary context, and through this process their seminal epistemological value is highlighted and their theoretical impact on a number of social-science research areas is identified and discussed. In particular, the paper argues that by calling attention to the various ways in which cultural heritage gets expressed and expanded – through practices ranging from the most trivial to the most sublime – Maquet greatly broadened the anthropological definition of culture and implicitly enriched our methodological toolkit. From the perspective of aesthetic anthropology, culture defines our entire ‘expressive style’ and thus its cross-cultural analysis becomes the telos of anthropological research.

Cerroni-Long, E.L.
Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI 48197, USA.

The Aesthetics of Insight: Practice, Form, and Process in Vipassana

DOI: 10.14673/IJA201521008
Published in Int. Journal of Anthropology – Vol. 30 – n.2 – 2015

Keywords: insight meditation, Sri Lanka Buddhist aesthetics, spiritual practice.

Midpoint in his anthropological career, Jacques Maquet became interested in Buddhism, and especially in Buddhist meditation practice. He was interested in studying Vipassana Bhavana, or insight meditation, not only as a scholar but also for his own spiritual growth. In particular, he was interested in theorizing the social construction of reality, and the aesthetics of Buddhist architecture and sacred spaces. This papers offers a reflection on Maquet’s intellectual journey within these frames, mediated by the author’s sociocultural position as an American-trained anthropologist from Sri Lanka, and as a woman trained in Vipassana. By analyzing the author’s experience at the Kanduboda meditation center in Sri Lanka, the very same location in which Jacques Maquet pursued some of his spiritual training, some hypotheses are formulated on the dynamics which may have catalyzed some of the tenets of aesthetic anthropology Maquet formulated and applied in his influential final studies.

Gunewardena, N.
Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225, USA.

Jacques Maquet: Aesthetic Anthropologist Par Excellence

DOI: 10.14673/IJA201521007
Published in Int. Journal of Anthropology – Vol. 30 – n.2 – 2015

Keywords: interdisciplinarity, aesthetic vision, creativity, experiential learning.
Because anthropology is both art and science, Jacques Maquet emphasized experiential learning as the nexus between these two approaches, and applied this insight to his own pedagogical endeavors. As his training and research led him to explore in depth not only the European hermeneutic tradition but also those of Africa and Asia, he became a true exemplar of the theoretical framework of aesthetic anthropology, which is intrinsically interdisciplinary. Acquiring the perspective of aesthetic anthropology consequently becomes a type of creative practice and intellectual quest, with specific cognitive dimensions. This paper explores some of these dimensions, illustrating their dynamics through Maquet’s own theoretical and methodological analyses. The resulting portrait of the anthropologist as existential explorer highlights the universal value of Maquet’s insights into the human condition, in all of its culture-specific characteristics.
Blundell, D.
Institute of Linguistics, National Chengchi University,
Taipei City 11623, Taiwan.

Displacement, Dispossession, and Aesthetic Expression

DOI: 10.14673/IJA201521006
Published in Int. Journal of Anthropology – Vol. 30 – n.2 – 2015

Keywords: aesthetic needs, forced migration, Nabati poets, cultural identity.

By placing aesthetic expression at the core of what makes us human, Jacques Maquet called attention to the fundamental need of all people to find beauty in their surroundings and to promote contemplation in everyday life. This applies to all societies, sedentary and mobile alike, but it also applies to populations forced to migrate and thus becoming territorially displaced and culturally dispossessed. This aspect of the forced migrants’ experience has so far been studied very seldom from an ethnographic point of view. This paper seeks to redress this oversight by examining forms of resilience and resistance among those marginalized by the nation-state as more than social and economic realities. Specifically, it includes an examination of a form of poetry adopted to give expression to loss, longing, renewal, and hope by female members of Bedouin communities now living in Jordan. Through the medium of aesthetic expression, the Jordanian Nabati poets mitigate the effects of social and economic displacement, strengthen cultural identity, and affirm their autonomous voice.

Chatty, D.
Seeley, M.
Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford,
Oxford, OX1 3TB, UK.

Maquet’s Symbolic Participation and Diasporic Azande Identity

DOI: 10.14673/IJA201521005

Published in Int. Journal of Anthropology – Vol. 30 – n.2 – 2015

Key words: symbolic participation, diasporic Azande, baby rituals, ethnicity.
In the first half of his anthropological career, Jacques Maquet established himself as one of the leading Africanists both through the richness of his ethnographic fieldwork experience and through his ability to develop new insights into the role played by symbols in various African cultures. By applying Maquet’s theory of symbolic participation to the analysis of recent transformations in the baby rituals used by diasporic Azande populations, this paper documents how symbolic participation mitigates physical separation and perpetuates ethnic identity. Azande mothers and midwives displaced from their ancestral territory and now living in Uganda use certain analogic ritual configurations to connect babies to their homeland in South Sudan. In so doing, they imprint Azande ethnicity on the baby and on older children participating in the baby rituals. These ritual innovations demonstrate how symbols can create their own meaning.
Siemens, S.D.
California State University at Northridge,
Northridge, CA 91330, USA.


Jacques Maquet: In Memoriam

Published in Int. Journal of Anthropology – Vol. 30 – n.2 – 2015
Jacques Maquet was one of the greatest anthropologists of his generation, a loyal Belgian with much of the deliberateness, precision, and detachment associated with the literary genius of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. He made an indelible mark on African Studies. His writing and teaching has had a particular significance for scholars of African art in many spheres, including aesthetic anthropology, ethnography, museum studies, the introduction of Africa to a 1960s audience of scholars eager to know about Africa, and finally in the relevance of his findings to many other disciplines.
Born in 1919, educated in Louvain in Belgium, the Sorbonne, and London, he continued throughout his life to be a force in both the Francophone and Anglophone academic worlds. Most of his ten major books were printed in both languages, the earlier ones first in French and then in English. Several books were also published in German editions. A prolific and conscientious scholar, he published more than 250 articles, papers, book chapters, reviews, and notes in addition to his well-received books. His career spans three continents. His early work on hermeneutics and his exploration of how knowledge systems were created, passed on, and developed, was carried out in Europe. In the 1950s and ‘60s he worked in Africa, focusing on the stratified social and cultural system of Ruanda (now Rwanda). He taught at the University of Paris from 1960-68, receiving his D. Litt. in 1973. He was at Case Western University in Cleveland from 1968-70. In 1970, he joined the UCLA Anthropology faculty and was very much associated with his newly defined purview of aesthetic anthropology when he expanded his research to Southeast Asia, particularly Sri Lanka, where he and his wife Gisele made many visits.
His first major volume, Sociologie de la connaissance, was published in Louvain in 1949, and the English edition, The Sociology of Knowledge, came out in 1951, a year before he received his fourth doctorate, this time from London, and established his hermeneutic distinction. Besides anthropology and sociology, his early work covered both law and philosophy, and he used his backgrounds in those disciplines to apply a cross-cultural approach to his exploration of knowledge systems. He constantly sought to explain the meaning of bodies of knowledge and tradition. His later interests in many ways grew out of this early exploration. In his 1979 Introduction to Aesthetic Anthropology, he articulated his approach. It was this aspect of his work that brought him into closer contact with the then newly expanding field of African art. Whereas many art historians were focused on individual works of art, Maquet was concerned with what he termed the ethos of a people, the social and cultural context and hitherto unexplored and/or hidden bodies of knowledge. He was concerned with the collective significance of art objects to human behavior and social organization. Aesthetic anthropology was a relatively new sub-field concerned with ideas of beauty, the meaning, manipulation, and use of symbols but also of the different ways that existed of looking at everyday objects. He explored the significance of specific objects and their symbolic relevance in the societies he studied. Much of his discipline had been generated by his close study of the stratified societies of Ruanda, particularly the Batutsi, in which he looked not only at aspects of social organization but also at the cultural context and performance arts of the different groups.
Like many of his generation, his early fieldwork and employment was in Belgian imperial Africa. He was inspired by Daryll Forde’s comparative initiatives and his long essay on Ruanda’s stratified society in Forde’s 1954 African World: Studies in Cosmological Ideas and Social Values of African Peoples provides much of the rationale for his later work. It has to be remembered that in 1949, when Maquet began his work in Ruanda, there was no formal African art history. Arts and crafts were subsumed under ethnography or ‘primitive’ art. During his time at Institut pour la Recherche Scientifique en Afrique Centrale (IRSAC ), Maquet provided in his writings a comprehensive view of the precolonial political and social structure of the Kingdom of Ruanda as well as the life styles of its people. Everything changed during the colonial period, and dramatically after the first slaughter of tens of thousands of Batutsi and their flight to neighboring states in 1959, even before the end of Belgian colonial rule in 1961.
By this time Maquet had been Professor of Anthropology at the University in Elizabethville, now Lubumbashi, and Astrida had resumed the name of Butare. In addition to his now seminal 1961 book The Premise of lnequality in Ruanda, he assembled a valuable and beautiful photo archive and in 1957 published Ruanda: essai photographique sur une societe africaine en transition and with Luc de Heusch produced several films that linked performance arts and material culture in Ruanda. I was drawn to IRSAC by the museum that Maquet helped to create, which became a model for many later African folk museums. Material culture was beautifully and comprehensively presented and many crafts kept alive by reproducing them in a museum setting, even a typical Tutsi house of grass and reeds.
In 1970 Maquet was invited to UCLA, where he stayed till 1990 serving as chair of the anthropology department from 1978-83. In 1972 his two most popular books, which influenced a large number of American students new to Africa, were published by Oxford University Press: Africanity: The Cultural Unity of Black Africa and Civilizations of Black Africa. During his time at UCLA, his research became focused on Asia, where he surveyed cosmological belief systems and philosophies across many societies; in 1986 Yale University Press published his The Aesthetic Experience: An Anthropologist Looks at the Visual Arts. He also convened several outstanding Harry Hoijer lecture series on different subfields of anthropology and edited three of the proceedings concerned with Marxian perspectives, linguistic anthropology, and symbols in anthropology.
On a personal level, I particularly remember that Jacques’ office was probably the tidiest and most visually enticing office I’ve ever seen, with no clutter anywhere and a single file on his desk and often a single beautiful flower in an elegant vase. He was an effective graduate mentor and his former students teach in Asia, North America, and Europe. In 2005 he was awarded a special life-time honor of distinction by the James Coleman African Studies Center at UCLA, from which he retired as a most distinguished Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, and a much beloved teacher and scholar.

The original version of this article was published in African Arts (2013) Vol. 46(4). It is reprinted here, slightly edited, by permission of the author.

M. Posnansky
University of California at Los Angeles,
Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA

Jacques Maquet: Pioneer of Cross-Cultural Research

Published in Int. Journal of Anthropology – Vol. 30 – n.2 – 2015

Memorial Colloquium

Soon after Professor Jacques Maquet passed away in February 2013, a number of his former students began exploring ways to honor his memory. At the forefront of this group were Dr. Barbara Mathieu and Dr. David Blundell, who had remained in touch with Professor Maquet after his retirement from UCLA, and continued to reside, like him, in the Los Angeles area. In particular, Barbara continued to faithfully visit Professor Maquet and his wife Gisele even after their declining health had necessitated a move into medical facilities. Indeed, Barbara was at hand at the end of Professor Maquet’s life, and was entrusted by his family with dispersing his ashes in the area of the Colorado mountains he particularly loved. Barbara and David also took care of informing many colleagues and students of his passing, and of writing the obituaries that were published at the time in various media and scholarly outlets.
In my case, being now academically based in Michigan, but also being at the helm of the, I started exploring the possibility of establishing a formal program in his honor through our international network. Consultations with the advisory board, and with key administrative officers at the UCLA Department of Anthropology, soon confirmed the general feasibility of these plans, and I began contacting potential participants in a Memorial Colloquium to be held at Professor Maquet’s final academic base. While all UCLA colleagues were informed of the Colloquium, and invited to participate, we were particularly interested in the involvement of Professor Maquet’s past students, hoping to gather presentations highlighting his intellectual legacy, either through an analysis of his work, or as applied and elaborated in their own scholarly perspectives.
The assistance of two key departmental staff members, Ann Walters and Madelyn Gianfrancesco, who had come to highly esteem Professor Maquet by working under his supervision while he served as Department Chair (1978-1983), was crucial at this point.
In particular, Ann, as ongoing Anthropology Graduate Adviser, was able to help me gather contact information about students who, like me, had Professor Maquet as Chair of their Doctoral Dissertation Committee. Many of these students I knew personally, since I had myself been studying at UCLA from 1978 to 1987, and had worked at the department in various staff capacities – including Undergraduate Adviser – all through this time. On the other hand, Madelyn, even though now retired, had long worked as departmental administrative assistant, coordinating the intricacies of departmental grants administration and research-related travel or equipment purchases. Thus, she was able to guide me in tracking down some of the key people who had worked closely with Professor Maquet on various projects since he joined UCLA in 1970.
Because so many of these students had gone on to careers that had taken them away not only from Los Angels, but also from the United States as well, making contact with them proved quite difficult. Also, in many cases, in spite of a willingness to participate in the Colloquium, which we had set for the end of May to avoid overlapping with regular teaching terms, the logistics of travelling to Los Angeles could not be negotiated. As a consequence, the Colloquium’s program ended up being quite streamlined (see, with some papers presented in absentia or summarized and expanded with informal remarks, but this gave the meeting a tone of intimacy and serenity that participants found particularly fitting for the occasion. The scholarly objectives of the project, however, were fully honored through the willingness of core participants to formalize their papers for publication purposes, and the collection of articles presented in the following pages attests to their commitment.
The Maquet Memorial Colloquium was held in the UCLA Anthropology Department Reading Room, in Haines Hall 352 on a bright, “California picture-perfect” Saturday afternoon, on May 31, 2014. During the last weekend in May the UCLA campus is usually taken over by various graduation ceremonies, but on this particular Saturday afternoon everything was quiet and serene. Haines Hall is one of the four original buildings completed in the late 1920s to define the historical center of the UCLA campus. It is located at the side of the iconic Royce Hall, with which it shares a Romanesque Revival style of architecture authenticated through the lavish use of Italian brick and tiles. In spite of its age, on a sunny day the building really sparkles, looking like a glazed terracotta vessel sailing on the bright green sea of the UCLA manicured lawns. Inside, the building is soothingly dark and cool, with polished floors and old-fashioned glass and wood fixtures that greatly enhance the historical feeling of the setting. The Anthropology Department occupies the top floor of the building, and its Reading Room, in which we held the Colloquium, is a particularly pleasant spot. Sparsely furnished, with book cabinets along one wall and simple tables and chairs we had arranged into a large central rectangle, it is a light and airy room, with one wall taken up by windows opening on to a vast lawn, and another enriched by a large collection of framed photographs documenting the work of departmental members in all corners of the world. On the day of the Colloquium we arranged some simple refreshments on shelves below the open windows, making sure to include some of Professor Maquet’s favorite dried fruits and fresh nuts which we served in wooden trays and baskets.
The final touch to our attempts at making the setting of the Colloquium reflect the elegance and serenity we all considered Professor Maquet’s most striking characteristics was provided by our distinguished keynote speaker, Professor Emeritus Merrick Posnansky, who brought a single perfect flower from his garden to display in an elegant vase in a conspicuous spot – just as it was usually found in Professor Maquet’s departmental office. In fact, as Professor Posnansky began the Colloquium by reminiscing about his various encounters with Jacques Maquet, starting from their original meeting in the 1950s in central Africa – where they were both independently conducting research – and culminating with their becoming colleagues at UCLA, participants increasingly felt as if our honoree’s spirit was being summoned and his essence was imbuing the memorial event.
As I mention in my paper, and as most of the Colloquium speakers independently pointed out, the intellectual legacy of Jacques Maquet most definitely involves the impact he exerted through his own exquisite sense of personal style, mental lucidity, and spiritual strength – all the more effective because of his unwavering commitment to the empowering value of human rationality. Jacques Maquet was a real gentleman and an outstanding scholar, but, above all, he was a genuine anthropologist, insofar as he understood and accepted – in fact, he was able to describe and analyze – the dilemma of unity and diversity that is at the core of the human experience, in the process distinguishing himself as a true pioneer of cross-cultural research.

E.L. Cerroni-Long
Eastern Michigan University
Ypsilanti, MI, 48197, USAE-mail: