Jonathan Zilberg | Leonardo

Jonathan Zilberg

Jonathan Zilberg is a cultural anthropologist specializing in art and religion. Since the early 1980s, he has been exploring religious symbolism in diverse art forms past and present in Central America, Africa and Southeast Asia. His enduring interests are in aesthetics, ritual and authenticity. Living in Asia, his current work focuses on how ideas and imagery, sound and sentiment are being increasingly contested by fundamentalist pressures. He began working with the National Museum of Costa Rica in 1983 on pre-Colombian petroglyph iconography and since then has conducted ethnographic and archival research in museums and arts institutions in the US, the UK, France and in Africa at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe before becoming involved in civil society and gender initiatives in the context of development.

His paper titled From Bloodstains to Brancusi: A History of Zimbabwean Modernism represents the culmination of two decades of research on the inspirational and institutional arts connections linking Africa, Europe and America. In 1996 he completed his doctorate work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a thesis titled Zimbabwean Stone Sculpture: The Invention of a Shona Tradition. He has published a number of articles on the history and authenticity of Shona sculpture and on popular culture and is perhaps best known in anthropological circles for his analysis of the popularity of Dolly Parton in Africa and of youth culture and Americana in Zimbabwe. Above all, he is committed to creative inter-disciplinary interaction in the humanities though he maintains a deep attachment to science and environmental activism. Currently he is working on the history of Indic textiles represented on the Hindu-Buddhist sculptures in the collection in the National Museum of Indonesia while simultaneously studying contemporary textiles, popular culture, and religious pluralism through his work as an activist-scholar experimenting with combining art, literature and ethnography.

Books and Journal Articles

Leonardo Reviews

Among the Jasmine Trees: Music and Modernity in Contemporary Syria by Jonathan Holt Shannon. Wesleyan Univ. Press, Middletown, CT, U.S.A., 2006. 292 pp., illus. Trade. ISBN: 0-8195-6798-1

June 2007
Leonardo Reviews

The Dreamers of Arnhem Land by Chris Walker, 2005. 50 min, color. First Run/Icarus Films. Distributor's web site: 〈

August 2007
Leonardo Reviews

Hats of Jerusalem directed by Nati Adler. First Run/Icarus Films, Brooklyn, NY, U.S.A., 2005. VHS/DVD, 52 min, color

October 2007
Leonardo Reviews

All Creatures: Naturalists, Collectors, and Biodiversity, 1850–1950 by Robert E. Kohler. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, U.S.A., 2006. 380 pp. illus. Trade. ISBN: 0-691-12539-8

April 2008
Leonardo Reviews

Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations Edited by Ivan Karp, Corrine Kratz, Lynn Szwaja and Tomas Ybarra-Frausto. Duke Univ. Press, Durham, NC, 2006. 632 pp., illus. Trade, paper. ISBN: 0-8223-3878-5; 0-8223-3894-7

June 2008
Leonardo Reviews

Native Moderns: American Indian Painting, 1940–1960 by Bill Anthes. Duke Univ. Press, Durham, NC, U.S.A., 2006. 304 pp., illus. Trade, paper. ISBN: 0-8223-3850-5; 0-8223-3866-1

June 2008
Leonardo Reviews

On the Rumba River by Jacques Sarasin. First Run/Icarus Films, New York, NY, U.S.A., 2006. 86 min, col. Distributor's website: 〈

August 2008
Leonardo Reviews

Shimmering Screens: Making Media in an Aboriginal Community by Jennifer Deger. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, U.S.A., 2006. 267 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-8166-4922-7

October 2008
Leonardo Reviews

Weimar on the Pacific: German Exile Culture in Los Angeles and the Crisis of Modernism by Ehrhard Bahr. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, U.S.A., 2007. 358 pp., illus. Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-520-25128-1. Paper ISBN: 978-0-520-25795-5

April 2009
Leonardo Reviews

Afghan Muscles by Andreas M. Dalsgaard, director. A Cinema Guild Release, New York, NY, 2007. DVD, 60 min. Distributor's web site: 〈

February 2010
Leonardo Reviews

The Poetics of DNA by Judith Roof. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, U.S.A., 2007. 245 pp. Paper. ISBN: 978-0-8166-4998-3

April 2010
Leonardo Reviews

The World According to Monsanto/Le Monde Selon Monsanto by Marie-Monique Robin. National Film Board of Canada/Office National du Film Canada, 2008. 109 min. Distributor's web site:

October 2010
Leonardo Reviews

On Fact and Fraud: Cautionary Tales from the Front Lines of Science by David Goodstein. Princeton University Press, Princeton, Oxford, 2010, 168 pp. Trade. ISBN: 978-0-691-13966-1

October 2011
Leonardo Reviews

Performing the Archive: The Transformation of the Archive in Contemporary Art from Repository of Documents to Art Medium by Simone Osthoff. Atropos Press, New York, U.S.A. and Dresden, Germany, 2009. 208 pp. Paperback. ISBN-13: 978-0-982-53090-0

February 2012
Leonardo Reviews

The Routledge Companion to Literature and Science edited by Bruce Clark and Manuela Rossini. Routledge, New York, NY, U.S.A., 2012.542 pp. Trade, paper. ISBN: 978-0-415-49525-7; ISBN: 978-0-415-50959-6

June 2013

Umm Kulthum: Artistic Agency and the Shaping of an Arab Legend, 1967–2007

April 2015

Online Reviews

June 2017
edited by Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein
April 2017