Emily R. Grosholz This essay is dedicated to Roald Hoffmann, who has brought me back beads from Calcutta, Bangkok, Singapore, Madagascar via Tucson, Arizona, and the Atacama Desert in Chile. anthropology What is the charm of necklaces? Why would anyone put something extra around their neck and then invest it with special significance? A necklace doesn't afford warmth in cold weather, like a scarf, or protection in combat, like chain mail; it only decorates. We might say, it borrows meaning from what it surrounds and sets off, the head with its supremely important material contents, and the face, that register of the soul. When photographers discuss the way in which a photograph reduces the reality it represents, they mention not only the passage from three dimensions to two, but also the selection of a point de vue that favors the top of the body rather than the bottom, and the front rather than the back. The face is the jewel in the crown of the body, and so we give it a setting. When people are intensely concerned with something that is obviously impractical, anthropologists take note, for lovely useless things often express archaic structures in the human
Prairie Schooner – University of Nebraska Press
Published: Aug 20, 2007
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