From Rate my professor:
Prof Bailey is great--interesting, intelligent, humorous. His classes are structured very specifically, with reading and attendance of high importance…. He is a very fair grader … and likeable. I recommend!!
The 50th birth anniversary of Douglass W Bailey (Feb 22) has been directing toward revealing some of the most successful steps of Bailey in science. One of the biggest is the non-invertible change in ways we study prehistoric figurines. Bailey’s method is in many cases prospective. He has been using the post-prehistoric experience of culture to learn more about the prehistoric figurines.
Typical of the prehistoric interpretation are the pseudoscientific methods. Since there is missing written evidence, the authors usually create models based on abstract presumptions which they try to fit to prehistory. In these works prehistoric looks like a manikin. Even the best dress placed on a manikin is a dress on a manikin, it cannot make the manikin a human. Bailey strongly, the most scientifically and seriously had broken with this wrong and misleading approach which made a considerable part of prehistoric literature to have looked like grey pseudoscientific non-valuable writings.
However, it was not easy for the author, as “Prehistoric figurines” (2005) shows. One of the research directions was to have understood the core of some of the values of post-prehistoric art works based on cross-art analysis. This analysis landed at the concept of regimes of truth. This concept may have different names, like ideologization of art, politization of art, etc. More important is the meaning – art is selective and has the power to create a new world of truth and moral which may not reflect completely the reality but function to direct the mind of people in very specific way. The conclusion of Bailey is that in some cases we can look at art as representation for a purpose and not only as representation of a person (Bailey, 2005: 129). Such art is purposeful-selective and has the power to direct the thinking of people toward directions different than poor aesthetical satisfaction. The examples of Bailey are strong and this makes his conclusions truthful since typically art has been abused by politics and ideology for their goals. In the cognitive lab of Bailey, however, are examples with value in culture.
Going further into the prehistoric art, we cannot exclude that prehistoric figurines might have in some cases presented just creative expressions of people. However, with Bailey’s paradigm we can think that creativity of people was limited by society since the beginning of human culture. Society, a word that David Graeber (2001) made us to write with a question mark in our head, seems to emerge mostly to limit the people in their way of acting and expressions. This fact has created the dichotomy of right and wrong, legal and crime. All our social life is a sort of regimes of truth – it is not absolutely wrong, but wrong according to the society. Then, our society looks like a manikin and this makes David Graeber asks – Does it exist? Bailey says: Yes, it exists, but within regimes of truth and makes society look a manikin.
Such thinkers like Douglass W Bailey and David Graeber stimulate to look at culture as a problem and not as a means for reproduction from perspectives of practical goals (career, money, covering of crime and corruption). They also make us question any smile at people whether it is not a form of regime of truth but also to live dedicated to rebuilding the trust in people by creating own world of regimes of truth which can be even much more wonderful, attractive and exciting that the real world. Society, then, instead a manikin, may become a social space to practice and communicate your own models of humanity.
Bailey, D. W. (2005). Prehistoric figurines. Routledge.
Graeber, D. (2001). Toward An Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams. Palgrave Macmillan.