The Aesthetic Constitution of Space: Mimetic Appropriation of Foreign "Styles" and the Creation of Transoceanic Connections on the Swahili Coast
Paola Ivanov – 2017
The Indian Ocean looks back on a long history of exchange concerning luxury goods that were primarily used for personal and interior decoration as well as in performative situations. In view of the primarily aesthetic dimension of the items of trade, Ivanov's article examines the role of aesthetics for creating social ties within the Indian Ocean. Based on a praxeological approach and phenomenological considerations, the article understands social space as a transitory nexus of people, things, and aesthetic forms, which is continually generated anew through social practice. Taking today's Swahili coast as an example, Ivanov argues that the translocal space of the Indian Ocean evolves from practices of mimetic appropriation, in which aesthetic properties of partners in transoceanic exchange are embodied. In doing so, translocal Swahili culture reveals a nondichotomous, complex way in which both the person and society are aesthetically constituted, a way that is at once reflexive and imaginative, bodily and material.