Learning how to think, and feel, about contemporary art

An object relational aesthetic for sociology

Authored by: Sophia KrzysAcord

Routledge International Handbook of the Sociology of Art and Culture

Print publication date:  September  2015
Online publication date:  September  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415855112
eBook ISBN: 9780203740248
Adobe ISBN: 9781135008895


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All knowledge is sensorially embodied in some capacity. Knowledge may be mentally indexed through our physical learning experiences in the world, lodged in our muscle memory, or deeply felt in the sense of tacit knowledge or commonsense understandings that we come to expect in certain circumstances. And studying what (and how) individuals know in different situations is integral to developing a robust understanding of how culture works – or is put to work (Acord and DeNora 2008) – in our social worlds. As Emirbayer (1997) has argued in his manifesto on relational sociology, this idea that actors engage with cultural norms in dynamic, unfolding situations is a key part of illuminating action in society. As a tangible cultural form, visual art provides sociology with an excellent case study to examine these processes of knowing and sharing through close studies of artistic producers, mediators, and consumers. The dynamic terrain of contemporary art, in which the making and negotiation of artistic knowledge is visible, offers a particularly good opportunity to witness the formation and employment of knowledge as a cultural meaning system.

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