Art and anthropology for a sustainable world

Tim Ingold*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Both art and anthropology, this article proposes, are future-oriented disciplines, united in the common task of fashioning a world fit for coming generations to inhabit. The first step in establishing this proposition is to show how the objectives of anthropology differ from those of ethnography. Anthropology, it is argued, establishes a relation with the world that is correspondent rather than tangential, that prioritizes difference over alterity, and that places presence before interpretative contextualization. The second step is to rethink the idea of research – to show how, as an open-ended search for truth and a practice of correspondence, research necessarily overflows the bounds of objectivity. Art and anthropology, then, and not natural science, are exemplary in the pursuit of truth as a way of knowing-in-being. The third step is to show that only if it is conceived in this way can research be conducive to the processes of renewal on which our collective futures depend. Thus research as correspondence is a condition for sustainability. But sustainability is nothing if it is not of everything. We have to begin, therefore, with the idea of everything as a plenum, in which each apparent addition is really a reworking. The article concludes with some reflections on the proposed synergy of art and anthropology for education, democracy, and citizenship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)659-675
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number4
Early online date22 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article is based on the text of a keynote address presented to the Royal Anthropological Institute Conference on ‘Art, Materiality and Representation’, at the British Museum, London, on 1 June 2018. I am especially grateful to the RAI, and to the organizers, for giving me the honour of addressing the conference. Much of the thinking behind my presentation was developed within the project ‘Knowing From the Inside: Anthropology, Art, Architecture and Design’, funded by an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (323677‐KFI, 2013‐18). I am grateful to participants in the project for ideas and inspiration, and to the Council for its support, as well as to the Editor of the , Elizabeth Hallam, along with two anonymous reviewers, for encouragement and critical suggestions. JRAI

Publisher Copyright:
© Royal Anthropological Institute 2019


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