technical paper

AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Ordinary Aesthetics, Uncanny Twists: On Simplicity and Complexity in serial TV

keywords:

aesthetics

creativity

ethics

Over the past few years, a rich debate has emerged in anthropology (and in some corners of professional philosophy) about the promise of an ordinary ethics. Oftentimes, the everyday continues, as Veena Das (2015) observes, “to be treated as a residual category of routine and repetition punctuated by the disruptions of the event.” In a similar vein, many continue to think of ethics as principally concerned with rules and their infringement, as something constituted by judgements made some distance from the everyday. In contrast with this conventional view, proponents of ordinary ethics have tried to ask, “what is it that blocks our ability to see the everyday and hence to imagine the ethical as inhering in the quotidian rather than standing out and announcing its presence though dramatic enactments of moral breakdown or heroic achievement.” As these debates continue to develop, we have begun to see a further need for thinking about the possibility of ordinary aesthetics, which while intimately linked with particularist ethics (Diamond 1991), would require its own investigation. By ordinary aesthetics, we want to highlight the ways aesthetics is intrinsic to human forms of life and not merely a bounded domain of rarefied social action, occupied with the production of general rules governing form or content or criteria for “great” or innovative art. Instead, we ask panelists to reflection on how everyday life itself a site of aesthetic concerns or artistic production. How do popular music, dance, literature, or television, as the “stuff of ordinary conversation,” become important sites for thinking and the moral “education of grownups” (Cavell 1979, 1981, Laugier 2019, 2020)? What would thinking of aesthetics as inhering in the everyday do to our picture of criticism, and its relationship to description? Might such a view help us to dislodge a still pervasive sense that aesthetic grammars are static repositories of authorized forms? How might be locate the emergence of newness from such a point of view, if not as a rupture from the words we inherit? Our goal in this panel is to bring anthropologists into conversation with philosophers and art critics, to think together about these possibilities.

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