Cultures of Sense: Approaches to the Sensuality of the Social World, 22-25 July, University of Zurich

The Topic

In the framework of sociality, perception and action are simultaneously corporeal and cultural entities. The use of the senses, the “sensual,” is thus an elementary component of that, which we commonly understand to be culture. As self-evident as such an understanding seems it nonetheless demands explanation, even in academia; this may in part be because it is so readily manifest, or indeed, because the dominant concepts of cultures have left only contingent space for the sensual and often relegated them to the realm of nature. A similar paradox is evident in ethnological traditions of thought. While the canon of studies, in keeping with its holistic standard, has included image, music, food, dance, clothing, and belief in its representation of the sensual – and extrasensory – dimensions of daily life, yet has done so without conceptualizing the associated sensual processes and their meanings.

In contrast, recent anthropological attention to the plurality of sensual experience and system has positioned the senses at the discursive center of a variety of disciplines. In recent years, it is at this space between disciplines, with its open borders and increasingly fluid paradigms, that a “sensory turn” has been established. This stems from the growing skepticism of modern conceptual standards, which presume a supposedly increasing sensory overload that necessarily leads and is leading to sensual loss. For a long period of time, the social and cultural situation of such assumptions in the knowledge systems of modernity itself have remained unrecognized. Within the examination of the senses in cultural and social sciences, this positioning functions as a prerequisite for accesses, which emerge from descriptions of sensually experienced objects to the analysis of sensory practices and thus must in turn make themselves sensible.

The conference will provide a platform by which this current and broadly discussed (both in and outside of academia), “return of the senses,” is made the object of cultural studies analysis and in which the expertise, which lies in the tradition of the subject’s research, may be uncovered. The themes and queries of the congress will join this complex conceptual space, which has expanded without opposition in recent years. In addition to the general presumption of a sensual shift, the congress will primarily focus on “sensual/sensory anthropology” in the fields of cultural and social anthropology, which is not simply based on an understanding of “sensual culture,” (D. Howes) but on an accessible form of “sensuous

scholarship”(P. Stoller). This also marks the specifics of historical and anthropologically- based cultural research, for which the study of sensual practices may additionally lead to forms of knowledge that have thus far remained outside of rational and ocular centric perceptional methodologies (C. Classen). Thus, in recent years, epistemic reflection and discussions regarding a methodological expansion have gained ground, while a broadening of traditional ethnography to “sensory ethnography,” (S. Pink) has been enabled.

Articles and discussions contributed to the congress may address the problems or thematic foci listed below. They ought not to be considered exclusive; rather, they serve as propositional guidelines to thematize the theoretical base of a culture of senses in its variability, rather than separating it into empirical process and methodological reflection.

Articles and discussions contributed to the congress may address the problems or thematic foci listed below. They ought not to be considered exclusive; rather, they serve as propositional guidelines to thematize the theoretical base of a culture of senses in its variability, rather than separating it into empirical process and methodological reflection.

  • Sensual Use: Practice, History
  • Sensual Culture: Representation/ Popular Understanding
  • The Ethnography of Multisensory Daily Lives
  • Sensory Understanding

For further details, visit: http://www.d-g-v.org/sites/default/files/cfp_english-version.pdf

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