Lorenzo Bartalesi is Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at l'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. In 2015-2016 he has been Junior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study of Aix-Marseille University and from 2012 to 2015 Postdoctoral Researcher at Università di Firenze. He is Managing Editor of the journal Aisthesis. His research focuses on Charles Darwin’s aesthetic thought, the anthropological approaches to aesthetics, and the theories of cultural transmission. Among his publications are "Estetica evoluzionistica. Darwin e l’origine del senso estetico" (Rome 2012) and "Antropologia dell’estetico" (Milan, 2017 - in press).
Appeals to aesthetics in human sciences are often seen as recourse to a philosophical enquiry, formulated in the eighteen century, where aesthetics is a prescriptive category that concerns a subjective, emotional and disinterested attention to visual elements. Approaching non-western artefacts or antiquities from this perspective obviously will lead to misunderstanding. Deprived of explanatory power, the aesthetic dimension has been progressively marginalized by human sciences. However, according to developmental psychologists, cognitive scientist and social anthropologists, aesthetic cognition is a key component in the intersubjective attunement, and aesthetic practices attend to several cultural processes. Aesthetics is not just a theoretical entity and a study of cultural dynamics could not afford to do without the aesthetic dimension of human experience. What kind of epistemic object is aesthetic for human sciences? Is it a cognitive function of human brain that needs a description or a meaningful behavior to be interpreted? The seminar will propose a broad view of aesthetics that results essential for ensuring the explanatory power of the theoretical notion. We will test this anthropological characterization by showing the role that aesthetic behaviors play in the acquisition and transmission of ideas, practices and norms. We will argue that a better understanding of this role provides a privileged point of view to integrate in a methodological continuum the traditional dualism between naturalistic description and culturalist interpretation of cultural facts.
Aesthetic cognition is important for intersubjective attunement and attends to cultural emergence and transmission of ideas, practices and norms. Although the notion of aesthetics underpins several approaches to culture, scholars have rarely focused on the dynamics whereby the multimodal and enactive nature of the aesthetic behaviors shapes the symbolic processes of constitution and re-enactment of cultural heritage. To concentrate on the aesthetic is to emphasize the creative and expressive pragmatic conditions of non-verbal transmission, focusing on the psychic, sensorimotor and emotional dynamics as primary symbolic processes of emergence, transformation and communication of cultural meanings.