Advertising Oaxacan Woodcarvings

Document Type


Peer Reviewed


Publication Date


Journal/Book/Conference Title

Human organization


Most analyses of the appeal of ethnic & tourist art emphasize buyers' romantic & nostalgic desires to connect with lost, simpler worlds through their purchase of handmade artifacts. Anthropologists discussing the marketing of these handicrafts therefore ordinarily focus on how ethnic & tourist art works & their makers are represented by merchants attempting to convey the "authenticity" of their products. This paper examines how brightly-painted wood carvings from the Mexican state of Oaxaca are advertised on the internet, a medium that encourages the use of visual images & detailed text. The origins of the trade in Oaxacan wood carvings can be traced to the activities of merchants & entrepreneurial artisans in the mid-twentieth century. Although many carvers had grandparents who spoke an indigenous language, the artisans are almost all monolingual in Spanish & almost never describe themselves as "Indians" (indigenas). In their attempts to convince potential buyers of the authenticity of the craft, some internet advertisers are evasive or misleading about the history of Oaxacan wood carving & the ethnic identity of the artisans. Most, however, avoid rhetoric about authenticity & focus instead on the pieces' craftmanship, artistic quality, & emotional appeal. Tables, References. Adapted from the source document.



Published Article/Book Citation

Human organization, 67:4 (2008) pp.362-372.

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