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Anthropological art (warning: graphic)

Posted by Christopher Shea  August 20, 2008 03:40 PM

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Anthropologists are lauded for the bravery of their fieldwork and the nuance of their social theories. Seldom do they get credit for something else -- the sheer coolness of their diagrams.

John Curran, a senior anthro major* at George Washington University is trying to remedy that: This summer he posted some seventy-odd of the most fascinating scholarly graphics that he's come across in his brief, passionate acquaintance with the field. They include:

Claude Levi-Strauss's classic depiction of the relationship between nature and culture:

Click image to enlarge

A 19th-century schematic created by a tribesman on the Tuamotu Islands, depicting the organization of the cosmos, saved by a Western observer and later reproduced in the Journal of the Polynesian Society, in 1919. The drawing was one of the inspirations for Margaret Mead's journey to Samoa:

Click to enlarge

And, from a 1992 article by Pitzer College's Claudia Strauss, "What Makes Tony Run?", a depiction of the forces driving one man to adopt a hobby that set him apart from other family members:

Click to enlarge

*I'm not sure if Curran is still a senior, as it says on his blog, or if he's graduated. (Maybe he's on his way to anthropology grad school, aiming to bring new diagrams into the world.) I'll clarify if and when I hear from him.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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