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David Howes Lecture “Sensory Ethnography: Between Art and Anthropology”

October 19, 2018 at 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

“Sensory Ethnography: Between Art and Anthropology”
Dr. David Howes

Friday, October 19, 2018
3:00–4:30 pm
Emmanuel College (EM), Room 119
75 Queen’s Park

Sponsored by the Northrop Frye Centre

Supported by the The Archaeology CentreDepartment of AnthropologyDepartment of History of Art/Graduate Department of ArtDepartment of HistoryFaculty of InformationGraduate Union of Student’s of ArtJackman Humanities Institute, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Sensory ethnography is the method of choice for social science researchers interested in the study of the sensorial construction of reality. Francois Laplantine sums it up nicely in The Life of the Senses: Introduction to a Modal Anthropology: “The experience of fieldwork is an experience of sharing in the sensible [partage du sensible]. We observe, we listen, we speak with others, we partake of their cuisine, we try to feel along with them what they experience.” The first part of this paper presents a survey of some classical and some breaking applications of this methodology of participant sensation, from Kathryn Geurts’ empathic account of the enculturation of the senses among the Anlo-Ewe of Ghana to Mark Doerksen’s doctoral research on the augmentation of the senses through the use of magnetic implants in the grinder subculture of California. The second part describes how some researchers have started experimenting with alternate platforms to communicate their findings—beyond the ethnographic monograph and beyond ethnographic film—such as by constructing “performative sensory environments.” Neither installation art nor museum display, yet in some ways both, these environments are “between art and anthropology.” But how are these exercises in research-creation to be evaluated? And what new forms of aesthetic experience might they unleash?

David Howes is Professor of Anthropology and Co-Director of the Concordia Centre for Sensory Studies, as well as the Director of the Concordia Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture. Dr. Howes is the author of numerous works on the anthropology of the senses, including Sensual Relations: Engaging the Senses in Culture and Social Theory(Michigan, 2003), and (with Constance Classen) Ways of Sensing: Understanding the Senses in Society (Routledge, 2013). He is the editor of Empire of the Senses (Berg, 2004), A Cultural History of the Senses in the Modern Age (Bloomsbury, 2014), and the four-volume Senses and Sensation: Critical and Primary Sources Compendium (Bloomsbury, 2018), among other works. He is also a founding editor of the journal The Senses and Society.

Part of the “Coming to Our Senses: Sensory Methodology and Experience in the 21st Century” Series

Lecture #1 “Collecting Our Senses: Seeing, Hearing and Touching in the Museum” with Dr. Constance Classen
Thursday, October 18 @ 5:30 PM at EClaude T. Bissell Building (BL), Room 728 (7th floor), 140 St. George Street

Graduate Seminar “Embodying the Senses in Art and Culture” with Dr. Constance Classen and Dr. David Howes
Friday, October 19 @ 12:00 PM at Jackman Humanities Building (JH), Room JHB1040 (10th floor), 170 St. George Street
Application required (, lunch provided

Faculty, students, staff, and the public are all welcome.
No registration necessary. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.


October 19, 2018
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
Event Category:


Emmanuel College, Room 119 (75 Queen’s Park Crescent)
75 Queen's Park Crescent
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1K7 Canada
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