Much of contemporary thought on the nature of the image is shaped by the attention directed by Aby Warburg to the image’s own temporality, one that is widely credited by its ‘survival’ (Didi-Huberman 1990, 2002). Warburg’s vision was of ‘Nachleben’ as an alternative to what he called a ‘panoramic view of history’ (Warburg 1999:585), comprised of chronologies, influences and the occasional genius. In tracing an image’s Nachleben Warburg thought to fashion a new methodology, one that is sensitive to the image’s own capabilities to extend itself in time in a transformational and generative manner that is conducive to translation. This paper will go beyond recalling Warburg’s personal acquaintance with anthropology via his acquaintance with the writings of E.B. Tylor and his meeting with Franz Boas to show the resonance of his methodological aspiration with recent theoretical work in anthropology on the nature of the image. 

In keeping both with the theme of the seminar series and with the ethnography on which anthropological theory of the image is largely based, this paper will turn to case studies from Oceanic art, known for its pivotal role in extending relations of trust across time and in space. The attention of anthropological theory to the image’s own propensity to unfold itself, traceable as patterns of similarity and difference, will be shown to enable the contemplation of complex sequences underpinning the distributive economies of maritime societies in ways that matter in localized and historically specific ways.

Presented by Prof. Susanne Kuechler (UCL).

This event took place on 17 March 2021.

Times of Festival is a lecture series on festivals in Europe and beyond from the perspectives of social history, art history, history of music and literature, and anthropology.