Panache and protocol in Australian Aboriginal art

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    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Perhaps the archaeological breakthrough in terms of conceptualizing style as social strategy emerged from the extended debate on style between Wiessner (1983, 1984, 1985, 1990) and Sackett (1977, 1982, 1990). Whereas Sackett’s (1977) early papers argue strongly for a ‘passive’ component in stylistic variation, which she called isochrestic variation (which occurs when choices are made among options that are fundamentally equivalent), his revised position (Sackett 1990:37) recognizes the existence of both active and passive style. During this debate, Wiessner developed Wobst’s (1977) notion of style as a means of communicating identity, to identify a behavioural basis for style in the fundamental human cognitive process of personal and social identifi cation through comparison. As Gamble (1991:3) points out, a consequence of this notion is that style must be an active tool in the negotiation of social strategy. It follows that any explanation of stylistic variation in relation to social strategy must necessarily focus on style as practiced within the constraints of particular situations. Indeed, Conkey (1990:15) suggests that there need be no necessary correlation between style and social entity - and that a view of material culture as an active, constitutive element of social practice implies that style may be more about the contexts in which group or other socialcultural phenomena are mobilised as process, rather than about group per se. Macdonald (1990:52) also addresses this question: Macdonald proposes a model of style that is based on a distinction between panache, which is the stylistic expression of separateness by the individual, and protocol, which is the stylistic expression of group identity and membership.1 Considered in tandem with the notion that style is used in the pursuit of social ends, it follows that this tension between individuality and group membership should manifest in the physical characteristics of style. Certainly, the notion of style as social strategy links easily to concepts of both group and individual social identity, since individuals are likely to have strategies in common as well as specifi c aspirations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationArchaeologies of Art
    Subtitle of host publicationTime, Place, and Identity
    PublisherLeft Coast Press
    Number of pages27
    ISBN (Print)9781598742640
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

    Bibliographical note

    First published 2008 by Left Coast Press, Inc. Digitised in 2016 by Routledge.


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