International Journal of Anthropology

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 245–258 | Cite as

Art in global context: An evolutionary/functionalist perspective for the 21st century

  • Dissanayake EllenEmail author


Regarding the arts as something peopledo — as behaviors, rather than the residue or artifacts of behavior — makes possible a theoretical grounding about their nature and importance, an endeavor that current anthropology of art has largely abandoned. A reconsideration of the suspect and largely discarded terms “functionalism” and “evolutionism” is presented in light of current evolutionary thinking. It is suggested that a contemporary reformulation of these concepts, illustrated by the author's Darwinian or “adaptationist” perspective on art, supports aims and claims of current anthropology of art, and contributes new focus and direction to its endeavors.


arts aesthetics human nature functionalism evolutionism Darwinism adaptationism, ethology adaptive value of art 


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Copyright information

© International Institute for the Study of Man 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the HumanitiesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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