The Senses and Society

Journal Information
ISSN / EISSN : 1745-8927 / 1745-8935
Published by: Informa UK Limited (10.1080)
Total articles ≅ 545
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Latest articles in this journal

Published: 4 May 2021
The Senses and Society, Volume 16, pp 237-242;

In this Afterword I write about the importance of mentorship, which can take us beyond the ethnographic to a place of deeper and broader sensory comprehension.
Published: 6 April 2021
The Senses and Society, Volume 16, pp 177-192;

In this essay I explore the sensuous dimensions of intimacies and erotics in ethnographic field research conducted among the Dagara in northwestern Ghana. I argue that sensuous perception reveals aspects of ethnographic research that are frequently rendered inaudible, especially performative modes of expression. I theorize a conception of the erotic that moves beyond sexual activity, desire, and identity. This expansion of the erotic continuum opens up space to explore intimacy as produced through embodied knowledges. Through three sonic portraits, I demonstrate that sensuous perception is vital to understanding women’s shared intimacies and relationships. The indigenous materiality, ritual, and performative modes expressed in the portraits illuminate the myriad configurations of erotics as a source of power between women, even across identity categories. These everyday moments, the sonic intimacies that develop over time and in non-linear ways, they gesture to the performative, embodied, sensorial dimensions of ethnographic knowing, and they clarify gendered intimacies. These portraits suggest that the erotic is a manifestation of creative energy embedded in shared knowledge, history, and embodied expression such as dance, ritual, labor, and intimate gestures. By witnessing everyday sonic productions as transformative, we conceptually expand feminist praxis to be grounded in indigenous expressions, idioms, and ideologies.
Published: 22 March 2021
The Senses and Society, Volume 16, pp 223-236;

This article argues that memory, nostalgia, place and sensory experience are inter-related and should not be relegated to the background, as they are indicative and productive of genesis, structure and process of social relations and ideals. The text addresses challenges of writing a narrative that includes diverse representations of mutually experienced events that reverberate in different spaces of the post-colonial world. In the research described, ancestors and their descendants co-exist and work together to fashion family histories in various examples from Madagascar and the United States. Conversations in the field, remembered with the odors, textures, and sounds of intimate exchanges, exposed a tangible reality and pervasive nostalgia that is not knowable through colonial records or national archives.
Published: 16 March 2021
The Senses and Society, Volume 16, pp 164-176;

Leather is a sensuous object marked by complex affects of desire and disgust. In India, this disgust is amplified due to the association of leather with caste. This paper examines the leather tannery as a space produced through the sensuous discourse of caste violence, which functions by marking leatherworking bodies with odors, that in turn perpetuate affectual and material possibilities of humiliation and discrimination. This violence of odors has no place in the deodorized discourse of law and yet in the sensuous ordering of caste there is nothing more repulsive than to carry the stench of tannery on oneself. The paper examines this intangible and sensual character of caste violence by closely following Paul Stoller’s methodological argument that sensuousness forms the field on which phenomena play out and through which they can be understood. Keeping in mind the value-laden and subjective nature of sensuousness, the paper also reflects on the ways in which the sensory politics of caste frames the interactions between the field and the body of the researcher – both of which are determined by the norms of caste. The ethnographic descriptions of caste and violence in the tannery on which this paper is based are thus mediated by multiple sensorial perceptions, including those of the researcher.
Published: 12 March 2021
The Senses and Society, Volume 16, pp 132-150;

A fervent politics of the senses sparked off in northern Nigeria, when, in 1995, more than 600 Muslim secondary school girls became possessed by spirits, with the new sign of “dancing like they do in Indian film.” Spirit possession in this Bollywood form spread across northern states, co-evolving with a meningitis epidemic as it swept through the desert to kill thousands. This article traces emergent eco-intimacies and the resonant politics of the senses as Bori and Qur’anic scholar-healers, or malams, linked these events, via assertions of ontological power, in the sensory geographic and affective-material movements of humans, spirits and pathogens. Malams reprimanded followers of Bori for calling spirits with music and dance, thus eroding the geographic and bodily boundaries between humans and spirits. They converted humans and spirits to their forms of orthodoxy before expelling spirits from their human hosts. The sensory politics of boundary monitoring and maintenance that emerged underpinned the 2000 implementation of sharia criminal codes across northern states. But, the affective senses of contamination and care did not align with any singular spiritual-political position, eliciting ongoing debates over appropriate spirit-human contact, and double binds in the sensory politics of medicine and state.
Published: 12 March 2021
The Senses and Society, Volume 16, pp 203-222;

This article presents a series of letters the authors exchanged while conducting ethnographic research in Belize and Ghana. The letters reveal an affinity between feminist ethnographic praxis and a politically attuned epistemology of the senses, what the authors call a sensory feminist orientation to scholarship. Expanding on criticism of the way sensory hierarchies inform Western knowledge-building, the authors reevaluate their own epistolary exchange as a methodological provocation. As stories, the letters detail what the authors orient themselves toward in the field, as well as embodied moments of disorientation: danger, violence and estrangement. Untidy and raw, they offer readers an opportunity to “listen to sense” and, in the process, consider the consequences when ethnographers are encouraged to excise certain field encounters from scholarship. The article includes paintings that Beth Uzwiak created while in the field as a component of the authors’ sensory experiment in epistolary ethnography. Their focus on the affective registers of storytelling contributes to broader efforts to disrupt the androcentric tendencies of ethnographic voice.
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