An Anthropologist Meets Aesthetic Realism

This site is a careful exploration of how the philosophy Aesthetic Realism explains the very basis of anthropology, the science of humanity.

Anthro TECH Site of the Month Award
study sphere award of excellence
Rainbow in the Valley: Papua New Guinea

Anthropology Class taught by Dr. Arnold Perey

"Nothing human is alien to me." Terence

Anthropology is about you, whether you live in a NY apartment or a mountain home in Papua New Guinea. "All beauty is a making one of opposites," stated Eli Siegel, the founder of Aesthetic Realism, "and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves." When we study this principle and the rich way the cultures of the world show it is true, we respect people more and see ourselves in a thrilling relation of difference and sameness to everyone else!

This great philosophy gives to anthropology the depth, kindness, and scientific accuracy it has always hoped for. It can, and does, end racism. It makes for kindness in marriage, in friendship, in every human relation, including economics—a statement I make carefully, definitely, and with great hope.  


Class of Winter 2016
6:00 - 7:30 PM on Alternate Wednesdays
Taught at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City

Download schedule of anthropology classes here (PDF)

1. January 20 POLYNESIA—Caring and Not Caring in Samoa & NYC

Recommended source: Coming of Age in Samoa, Margaret Mead’s classic study of the people living in American Samoa in the 1920s.

Margaret Mead in Samoa & two friendsM. Mead & friends

2. February 3 AFRICA—Giving and Getting in the Ituri Forest & the U.S.A.

Recommended source: Colin Turnbull’s study of the Mbuti people in the Congo rainforest, living as hunter-gatherers—titled The Forest People.

Playing a musical bow in the Ituri rainforest. Playing musical bow

3. February 17 INDIA—Snobbery in America, Caste in India

Recommended source: The extraordinary and kind novel Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand.

Mulk Raj Anand's extraordinary and kind novel, Untouchable

4. March 2 NATIVE AMERICA—To Feel and to Know: The Dakota and You

Recommended source: Indian Boyhood by Charles A. Eastman, a Dakota (Sioux) from the Leaf-dweller band. He tells of his own dramatic youth.

Charles A. Eastman: What was the life of a Native American like in forest and plains? Ohiyesa (Dr. Eastman) tells the story.

5. Saturday March 19 [Instead of Wednesday MARCH 16]

We meet at the American Indian Museum, 1 Bowling Green, NYC, with “The Visual Arts and the Opposites” class at 11 AM, to continue our study of the Dakota peoples in relation to ourselves.

6. March 30 MIDWEST & NEW GUINEA—The World: Friend or Enemy?

Recommended sources: The Dobu in Ruth Benedict’s Patterns of Culture and George Babbitt in Sinclair Lewis’s novel, Babbitt.

Sinclair Lewis's Midwestern protagonist Babbitt: We compare to a man in Dobu of Papua New Guinea.

Ruth Benedict's Patterns of Culture   Photo of Mbuti of the Ituri Forest, Congo, making a hunting net -- by Eliot Elisofon  Mbuti man playing a musical bow


Barbara Allen Interview



Gwe, Young Man of New Guinea -- a Novel Against Racism:

   From the Novel: Her second was born an hour before dawn, when it was cold, in the Rainy Season. According to custom, the child was nameless for 27 days and was secluded with her in a birth house built in a quiet tree-covered place by her brother and herself.  

     Those 27 days she held the small being in her arms, taking turns with her sister who was secluded with her. Thus the most vulnerable days for the infant were taken care of, keeping the baby steadily warm in mountain weather, cold even indoors.  

     Bettiana looked at his soft skin, the color of sunny earth. She felt his fingers grasp at her, and while he sucked milk from her breast she felt, blissfully, "The world is so kind." Then, in the dark, her mind seemed to turn upside down, and she remembered how insultingly her husband had ignored her opinion in the garden. Again, he said the potatoes she was ready to harvest weren’t big enough yet! She cradled the infant closer and thought, "But my baby loves me." The babe seemed to reply by paddling its little arms in the air and gurgling.    Read more from chapter 1   

Wepil of Divana illustrating where these tiny carving tools come from: the jawbone of a nibbling animal
My anthropological novel, based on Aesthetic Realism, and culturally accurate
Stone axe, as used by a man of the Mountain Ok area to cut down a second-growth tree


Anthropological Journal Entries



An anti-prejudice book for children,
inspired by a traditional story of the Ndowe People of Africa.
Told and illustrated by Arnold Perey.

Illustration from "Were They Equal?" #3, Tortoise shouts, "Hello, my friend!"
Illustration from "Were They Equal?" #2
Illustration from "Were They Equal?" #3

Elephant and Hippopotamus were chatting one day, and Elephant said, "Have you heard, that little tortoise has been saying he's equal to us! What nerve!"

Said Hippopotamus, "Who, that pipsqueak? My foot is bigger than he is! And he's saying he's our equal?" He was angry.

Hippo was the biggest animal in the river and Elephant was the biggest animal on the land. At the thought of Tortoise calling himself their equal, they both laughed out loud...

 For more info


A Doctoral Dissertation Based on Aesthetic Realism

Showing That a Society of Papua New Guinea Has an Aesthetic Structure and Purpose

A man resting after agricultural labor

Man resting from work in traditional sweet potato agriculture. I took this
photo where I did field research, in Betiana hamlet of Oksapmin, in the Mountain Ok region of Papua New Guinea.


diamond dot for Aesthetic Realism: A New Perspective for Anthropology & Sociology"A New Perspective for American Anthropology"

Published in The Anthropologist (University of Delhi, India). That New Perspective is provided by Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy founded by American educator Eli Siegel.

"Consider the native people of 0kapmin, New Guinea....Do they have two opposite attitudes to the world—that it has been kind to them and the gods have been good, and also that it has rooked them?"

Read new explanation of what you hope to understand: What is culture shock, and do I have it in my everyday life? What's the cause? Do people have more emotions in common than I think?

diamond dot for Aesthetic Realism: A New Perspective for Anthropology & SociologyKinship: "Body and World in Oksapmin Kin Terms"

By translating the terms used for relatives, we see a junction of body and the natural world that's symbolic of what people hope for: that world and self join accurately and kindly. Read more

diamond dot for Aesthetic Realism: A New Perspective for Anthropology & Sociology"Idealism and Practicality: How Can a Man Have Both?"

Paper presented in an Aesthetic Realism seminar in which I discuss my own life and that of the great anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, using his famed Diary in the Strict Sense of the Word, written in New Guinea 1914-1918. This paper is about the division in every person between being "practical" and "idealistic." I suggest in this paper that Malinowski, who was very courageous in the Diary, wanted to resolve this division in his tremendous contribution to anthropology, Functionalism.    Read more

Some Resources I Like & Recommend
bulletAmerican Anthropological Association
bulletDrama Meets Science: The Aesthetic Realism Theatre Co.
bulletThe Tremendous Meaning of Literature and Criticism
bulletAesthetic Realism Theatre Company
bulletAesthetic Realism Foundation
bulletWhat Is Aesthetic Realism?

Depsin is one of the men I liked and respected during my field research
in the Mountain Ok area of Papua New Guinea

* Images from Papua New Guinea on this site are photographs taken by Arnold Perey.

Copyright © 2001-2016 by Arnold Perey. All rights reserved