Here is a much-needed overview of what is arguably our most elusive sense. Sight and hearing have been the subject of numerous books, while the so-called "lower senses" have remained relatively unexplored despite powerful and complex social meanings. From hygiene to aromatherapy, the foul to the fragrant, smell is shown here to be much more than a physical act of perception.
In Empire of the Sensesthe senses are considered as cultural systems. Bringing together classic pieces by key thinkers--from Marshall McLuhan and Alain Corbin to Susan Stewart and Oliver Sacks--as well as newly commissioned articles, this path-breaking book provides a comprehensive overview of the "sensual revolution," where all manner of disciplines converge. Its aim is to enhance our understanding of the role of the senses in history and across cultures by overturning the hegemony of vision in contemporary theory and demonstrating that all senses play a role in mediating cultural experience. It asks provocative questions that most of us take for granted. Are there, for example, only five senses, or is this assumption a Western construct? This radical contribution to revisioning cultural studies will be essential reading for anyone hoping to understand the full complexity of how we experience our world.
What is the sixth sense? Is it physical, mental or spiritual? Do we all possess it or is it unique to exceptional individuals? Might there be a seventh sense and an eighth sense as well? What role does culture play in determining the range of our perceptual abilities? The search for a supplementary sense has taken many directions and yielded numerous possibilities for an "additional faculty" of perception - from magnetism and movement to dreaming and clairvoyance. Stimulating reflection and debate, The Sixth Sense Reader explores the cultural contexts which give rise to such reports of "psychic" and other powers that exceed the ordinary bounds of sense. In this groundbreaking volume, leading scholars in history, anthropology and biology take the reader on a tour of the far borderlands of consciousness. From the world beneath to the world beyond the five senses, every potential avenue of sensation is opened up for investigation.
With audacious dexterity, David Howes weaves together topics ranging from love and beauty magic in Papua New Guinea to nasal repression in Freudian psychology and from the erasure and recovery of the senses in contemporary ethnography to the specter of the body in Marx. Through this eclectic and penetrating exploration of the relationship between sensory experience and cultural expression, Sensual Relations contests the conventional exclusion of sensuality from intellectual inquiry and reclaims sensation as a fundamental domain of social theory. David Howes is Professor of Anthropology, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec.
The first edition of The Auditory Culture Reader offered an introduction to both classical and recent work on auditory culture, laying the foundations for new academic research in sound studies. Today, interest and research on sound thrives across disciplines such as music, anthropology, geography, sociology and cultural studies as well as within the new interdisciplinary sphere of sound studies itself. This second edition reflects on the changes to the field since the first edition and offers a vast amount of new content, a user-friendly organization which highlights key themes and concepts, and a methodologies section which addresses practical questions for students setting out on auditory explorations. All essays are accessible to non-experts and encompass scholarship from leading figures in the field, discussing issues relating to sound and listening from the broadest set of interdisciplinary perspectives. Inspiring students and researchers attentive to sound in their work, newly-commissioned and classical excerpts bring urban research and ethnography alive with sensory case studies that open up a world beyond the visual. This book is core reading for all courses that cover the role of sound in culture, within sound studies, anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, history, media studies and urban geography.
Taste, perhaps the most intimate of the five senses, has traditionally been considered beneath the concern of philosophy, too bound to the body, too personal and idiosyncratic. Yet, in addition to providing physical pleasure, eating and drinking bear symbolic and aesthetic value in human experience, and they continually inspire writers and artists. In Making Sense of Taste, Carolyn Korsmeyer explains how taste came to occupy so low a place in the hierarchy of senses and why it is deserving of greater philosophical respect and attention. Korsmeyer begins with the Greek thinkers who classified taste as an inferior, bodily sense; she then traces the parallels between notions of aesthetic and gustatory taste that were explored in the formation of modern aesthetic theories. She presents scientific views of how taste actually works and identifies multiple components of taste experiences. Turning to taste's objects—food and drink—she looks at the different meanings they convey in art and literature as well as in ordinary human life and proposes an approach to the aesthetic value of taste that recognizes the representational and expressive roles of food. Korsmeyer's consideration of art encompasses works that employ food in contexts sacred and profane, that seek to whet the appetite and to keep it at bay; her selection of literary vignettes ranges from narratives of macabre devouring to stories of communities forged by shared eating.
From the tortures of the Inquisition to the corporeal comforts of modernity and from the tactile therapies of Asian medicine to the virtual tactility of cyberspace, The Book of Touch offers excursions into a sensory territory both foreign and familiar. How are masculine and feminine identities shaped by touch? What are the tactile experiences of the blind, or the autistic? How is touch developed differently across cultures? What are the boundaries of pain and pleasure? Is there a politics of touch? Bringing together classic writings and new work, this is an essential guide for anyone interested in the body, the senses and the experiential world.
In this comprehensive and engaging volume, medical historian Jonathan Reinarz offers a historiography of smell from ancient to modern times. Synthesizing existing scholarship in the field, he shows how people have relied on their olfactory sense to understand and engage with both their immediate environments and wider corporal and spiritual worlds. This broad survey demonstrates how each community or commodity possesses, or has been thought to possess, its own peculiar scent. Through the meanings associated with smells, osmologies develop--what cultural anthropologists have termed the systems that utilize smells to classify people and objects in ways that define their relations to each other and their relative values within a particular culture. European Christians, for instance, relied on their noses to differentiate Christians from heathens, whites from people of color, women from men, virgins from harlots, artisans from aristocracy, and pollution from perfume. This reliance on smell was not limited to the global North. Around the world, Reinarz shows, people used scents to signify individual and group identity in a morally constructed universe where the good smelled pleasant and their opposites reeked. With chapters including "Heavenly Scents," "Fragrant Lucre," and "Odorous Others," Reinarz's timely survey is a useful and entertaining look at the history of one of our most important but least-understood senses.
Ways of Sensing is a stimulating exploration of the cultural, historical and political dimensions of the world of the senses. The book spans a wide range of settings and makes comparisons between different cultures and epochs, revealing the power and diversity of sensory expressions across time and space. The chapters reflect on topics such as the tactile appeal of medieval art, the healing power of Navajo sand paintings, the aesthetic blight of the modern hospital, the role of the senses in the courtroom, and the branding of sensations in the marketplace. Howes and Classen consider how political issues such as nationalism, gender equality and the treatment of minority groups are shaped by sensory practices and metaphors. They also reveal how the phenomenon of synaesthesia, or mingling of the senses, can be seen as not simply a neurological condition but a vital cultural mode of creating social and cosmic interconnections. Written by leading scholars in the field, Ways of Sensing provides readers with a valuable and engaging introduction to the life of the senses in society.
The definitive overview of the role of the senses in antiquity, covering themes such as religion, philosophy, science, medicine, literature, art and media.
Sensing the World: An Anthropology of the Senses is a highly original and comprehensive overview of the anthropology and sociology of the body and the senses. Discussing each sense in turn – seeing, hearing, touch, smell, and taste – Le Breton has written a truly monumental work, vast in scope and deeply engaging in style. Among other pioneering moves, he gives equal attention to light and darkness, sound and silence, and his disputation of taste explores aspects of disgust and revulsion. Part phenomenological, part historical, this is above all a cultural account of perception, which returns the body and the senses to the center of social life. Le Breton is the leading authority on the anthropology of the body and the senses in French academia. With a repute comparable to the late Pierre Bourdieu, his 30+ books have been translated into numerous languages. This is the first of his works to be made available in English. This sensuously nuanced translation of La Saveur du monde is accompanied by a spicy preface from series editor David Howes, who introduces Le Breton's work to an English-speaking audience and highlights its implications for the disciplines of anthropology, sociology, and the cross-disciplinary field of sensory studies.
The Colour of Angels uncovers the gender politics behind our attitude to the senses. Using a wide variety of examples, ranging from the sensuous religious visions of the middle ages through to nineteenth-century art movements, this book reveals a previously unexplored area of womens history.
Historical accounts of major events have almost always relied upon what those who were there witnessed. Nowhere is this truer than in the nerve-shattering chaos of warfare, where sight seems to confer objective truth and acts as the basis of reconstruction. In The Smell of Battle, the Taste of Siege, historian Mark M. Smith considers how all five senses, including sight, shaped the experience of the Civil War and thus its memory, exploring its full sensory impact on everyone from the soldiers on the field to the civilians waiting at home. From the eardrum-shattering barrage of shells announcing the outbreak of war at Fort Sumter; to the stench produced by the corpses lying in the mid-summer sun at Gettysburg; to the siege of Vicksburg, once a center of Southern culinary aesthetics and starved into submission, Smith recreates how Civil War was felt and lived. Relying on first-hand accounts, Smith focuses on specific senses, one for each event, offering a wholly new perspective. At Bull Run, the similarities between the colors of the Union and Confederate uniforms created concern over what later would be called "friendly fire" and helped decide the outcome of the first major battle, simply because no one was quite sure they could believe their eyes. He evokes what it might have felt like to be in the HL Hunley submarine, in which eight men worked cheek by jowl in near-total darkness in a space 48 inches high, 42 inches wide. Often argued to be the first "total war," the Civil War overwhelmed the senses because of its unprecedented nature and scope, rendering sight less reliable and, Smith shows, forcefully engaging the nonvisual senses. Sherman's March was little less than a full-blown assault on Southern sense and sensibility, leaving nothing untouched an no one unaffected. Unique, compelling, and fascinating, The Smell of Battle, The Taste of Siege, offers readers way to experience the Civil War with fresh eyes.
Designing with Smell aims to inspire readers to actively consider smell in their work through the inclusion of case studies from around the world, highlighting the current use of smell in different cutting-edge design and artistic practices. This book provides practical guidance regarding different equipment, techniques, stages and challenges which might be encountered as part of this process. Throughout the text there is an emphasis on spatial design in numerous forms and interpretations – in the street, the studio, the theatre or exhibition space, as well as the representation of spatial relationships with smell. Contributions, originate across different geographical areas, academic disciplines and professions. This is crucial reading for students, academics and practitioners working in olfactory design.
What did nineteenth-century cities smell like? And how did odors matter in the formation of a modern environmental consciousness? Smell Detectives follows the nineteenth-century Americans who used their noses to make sense of the sanitary challenges caused by rapid urban and industrial growth. Melanie Kiechle examines nuisance complaints, medical writings, domestic advice, and myriad discussions of what constituted fresh air, and argues that nineteenth-century city dwellers, anxious about the air they breathed, attempted to create healthier cities by detecting and then mitigating the most menacing odors. Medical theories in the nineteenth century assumed that foul odors caused disease and that overcrowded cities�filled with new and stronger stinks�were synonymous with disease and danger. But the sources of offending odors proved difficult to pinpoint. The creation of city health boards introduced new conflicts between complaining citizens and the officials in charge of the air. Smell Detectives looks at the relationship between the construction of scientific expertise, on the one hand, and �common sense��the olfactory experiences of common people�on the other. Although the rise of germ theory revolutionized medical knowledge and ultimately undid this form of sensory knowing, Smell Detectives recovers how city residents used their sense of smell and their health concerns about foul odors to understand, adjust to, and fight against urban environmental changes.
With its 8.3 million occupants, London is a bustling and diverse metropolis characterized by rich histories of socioeconomic change and multiculture. The abundance of smells and tastes which can be experienced in the city are integral to understanding both its history and the reality of London's urban present. From the fiery chillies sold by street grocers which are linked to years of cultural exchange, through 'cuisines of origin' like jellied eels to hybridized dishes such as the chicken katsu wrap, sensory experiences are key to understanding the complex cultural genealogies of the city and its social life. In this fascinating book, Alex Rhys-Taylor offers a ground-breaking sensory ethnography of East London. Drawing on a multicultural context in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, he explores concepts such as gentrification, class antagonism, new ethnicities and globalization. Each of the eight chapters combines micro histories of ingredients such as fried chicken, bush-meat, and curry sauce with narratives from individuals, providing a unique, engaging account of the evolution of taste and culture through time and space. With its innovative methodology, this is a highly original contribution to the fields of sensory studies, food studies, urban studies, and cultural studies.
From the softest caress to the harshest blow, touch lies at the heart of our experience of the world. Now, for the first time, this deepest of senses is the subject of an extensive historical exploration. The Deepest Sense: A Cultural History of Touch fleshes out our understanding of the past with explorations of lived experiences of embodiment from the middle ages to modernity. This intimate and sensuous approach to history makes it possible to foreground the tactile foundations of Western culture--the ways in which feelings shaped society. Constance Classen explores a variety of tactile realms including the feel of the medieval city; the tactile appeal of relics; the social histories of pain, pleasure, and affection; the bonds of touch between humans and animals; the strenuous excitement of sports such as wrestling and jousting; and the sensuous attractions of consumer culture. She delves into a range of vital issues, from the uses--and prohibitions--of touch in social interaction to the disciplining of the body by the modern state, from the changing feel of the urban landscape to the technologization of touch in modernity. Through poignant descriptions of the healing power of a medieval king's hand or the grueling conditions of a nineteenth-century prison, we find that history, far from being a dry and lifeless subject, touches us to the quick.
Explores the life histories of two Yolmo elders, focusing on how particular sensory orientations and modalities have contributed to the making and the telling of their lives.
Adding her stimulating and finely framed ethnography to recent work in the anthropology of the senses, Kathryn Geurts investigates the cultural meaning system and resulting sensorium of Anlo-Ewe-speaking people in southeastern Ghana. Geurts discovered that the five-senses model has little relevance in Anlo culture, where balance is a sense, and balancing (in a physical and psychological sense as well as in literal and metaphorical ways) is an essential component of what it means to be human. Much of perception falls into an Anlo category of seselelame (literally feel-feel-at-flesh-inside), in which what might be considered sensory input, including the Western sixth-sense notion of "intuition," comes from bodily feeling and the interior milieu. The kind of mind-body dichotomy that pervades Western European-Anglo American cultural traditions and philosophical thought is absent. Geurts relates how Anlo society privileges and elaborates what we would call kinesthesia, which most Americans would not even identify as a sense. After this nuanced exploration of an Anlo-Ewe theory of inner states and their way of delineating external experience, readers will never again take for granted the "naturalness" of sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell.

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