TOWARDS AN UNDERSTANDING OF NAVAJO AESTHETICS
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario Canada
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popularity of Navajo rugs as ‘collectibles’ for Anglos
(Anglo-Americans) has diminished our understanding of Navajo aesthetics. Navajo
weavers’ feeling for hózhó (beauty/harmony/local
order) encompasses far more than the Western concept of ‘classical
aesthetics’ which locates ‘beauty’ in the isomorphic object.
Based on extensive interviews with weavers, I argue that weaving is a
form of metacommunication which imparts information that cannot be transmitted
discursively. Drawing on Gregory Bateson’s concept of aesthetics, and
adapting topological illustrations from Wilden, I demonstrate that weaving
serves as an example of a recursive-hierarchical system, that is a system whose
patterns of interconnection are recursive and in which weaving is a
‘signifying event’ that signals movement, mapping and
transformation.. Utilizing this communicational perspective enables an
understanding of why Navajo women would continue to weave under persistent,
difficult conditions, and gives a counter-perspective to the split between
Navajo conception of pattern in a rug and rug as commodity. The Anglo
insistence on dividing pattern from commodity threatens Navajo life ways.
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