‘Sensory Critique-Transformation and Social Change’ by David Howes

‘Sensory Critique-Transformation and Social Change’
lecture by David Howes (Professor of Anthropology at Concordia University, Montreal.)

DETAILS: Sydney, 3 August 2010, 6 for 6.30 pm
UTS Building 6 (702-730 Harris St), Level 3, Room 22

RSVP is required: Transforming.Cultures@uts.edu.au

Abstract
The utopianist Charles Fourier denounced the sensory ills of the civilization of his day and put forward a program for the education of the senses that would lead to the establishment of a culture of harmonious
sensual and social relations called Harmony.

Fourier’s influence can be discerned behind Karl Marx’s critique of the alienated state of the senses under industrial capitalism and his dream of the emancipation of the senses (following the abolition of private
property) in communist society. Marshall McLuhan entertained a similarly utopian vision of the fusion of the senses (as of people) in the “global village” created by advances in electronic communications technology, in
contrast to the separation of the senses (as of people) under the old regime of print technology.

These three revolutionary theories are of interest for the way in which they conceive the social and the sensorial as intertwined. The transformation of culture entails the transformation of the senses, and
vice versa, they proclaim. The first part of this talk will be devoted to an appreciation of these
theories, the second part to an assessment of how they fail to explain the contemporary scene (insofar as the senses, like society, remain divided in ways they did not anticipate), and the third part to piecing together a theory which can account for the emergence of two sensory social movements that seem particularly diagnostic of our times: the movement to have “Environmental Sensitivities” (ES) recognized as a disease, and the Slow City (or Cittàslow) movement. The paper concludes with some general reflections on the relationship between sustainability and the senses.

Biography David Howes

David Howes is Professor of Anthropology at Concordia University, Montreal. He is also the Director of the Special Individualized Programs at Concordia, which enable select students to design their own interdisciplinary master’s or doctoral degree curricula. He has carried out fieldwork in the anthropology of the senses in Melanesia and Argentina and within the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. He is a Founding Editor of The
Senses and Society, General Editor of the Sensory Formations series, and the Director of the Concordia Sensoria Research Team. His latest book is The Sixth Sense Reader (Berg, 2009).

All welcome. See you there.

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