2011-12 Catalog

Decorative graphic

Offering Description

Marketing Authenticity: Craft, Commodity and Culture

Spring 2012 quarter

Tom Womeldorff economics , Alice Nelson Spanish language, Latin American studies , Jean Mandeberg visual art, metalsmithing
Fields of Study
cultural studies, economics, literature and visual arts
Preparatory for studies or careers in
the arts, business, cultural studies, economics and international studies.

A tourist travels from the United States to a folk festival in the Andean highlands and decides to buy a tapestry from an indigenous woman. What, exactly, is being bought and sold? From the buyer's perspective, perhaps the object serves as a memento of the trip or offers functionality as décor back home, or perhaps it represents something else: a sense of connection with the "other" a way to "help" a person in need, an "authentic" representation of a seemingly timeless culture. From the seller's perspective, the object may well express a craft tradition, often adapted to the demands of the tourist market, a way to make a living or to serve some other purpose. Whatever the case, both the buyer and the seller are enmeshed in contexts larger than themselves as individuals: cultural belief systems shaping their viewpoints and values (moral, political, and aesthetic), global capitalist pressures, and the legacies of colonialism.

We will explore the intersections of cultural studies, economics, and the arts, focusing on various cases of craft production, their connections to systems of power, and the ways competing notions of "authenticity" are expressed in them. We will examine the factors shaping artistic production in each case: who or what decides the form a given craft may take, its relationship to "tradition" and who profits from its sales. We will look at the larger economic contexts shaping arts and crafts globally, such as the rise of mass-produced craft replicas and the lack of access to alternative forms of development. We will explore the links between craft and story, including the ways that literary and film representations raise pointed questions about cultural expectations and intercultural exchange. During the quarter, we will undertake two or three small projects connecting the theory and practice of aesthetic design to marketing within specific cultural contexts. Ultimately, we will ask: given all the challenges, how might specific groups use art and craftsmanship to improve their own lives?

Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
$200 for field trips.
Offered During