Sensory studies arises at the conjuncture (and within) the fields of anthropology • sociology • history • archeology • geography • communications • religion • philosophy • literature • art history • museology • film • mixed media • performance • phenomenology • disability • aesthetics • architecture • urbanism • design

Sensory Studies can also be divided along sensory lines into, for example, visual culture, auditory culture (or sound studies), smell culture, taste culture and the culture of touch, not to mention the sixth sense (however it might be defined)

Sensory Scholarship: New Directions in Theory and Methodology


An ISA event – the Second ISA World Forum with the theme, ‘Social Justice and Democratization’ will take place in Buenos Aires between 1-4 August 2012. See details on the site:

TG07 Senses and Society has been allocated a total of 8 sessions and we would like to invite proposals for sessions or panels that are in line with your research or areas which you think would be important to explore in the field of sensory studies. Below you will see some of our suggestions for general themes. Please feel free to make additional or alternative suggestions, or, to propose specific sessions under these headings. The TG’s proposals must be submitted for posting on the Forum site early in July. So do send us your thoughts as soon as possible.

Apart from ideas on possible sessions and themes, we would also like to warmly invite you to become members of the TG, where you are then eligible to become a candidate for office, and vote on the statutes and on future activities of the TG.

In line with ISA regulations, membership fees come at a very favourable discounted rate of USD 20 for a 4-year period. This can be paid on-line:

Proposed Themes for TG07 Sessions
Second ISA World Forum
Buenos Aires, August 1-4, 2012

1. Sensory Scholarship – New Directions in Theory and Methodology?

How can scholarly endeavours in the field of sensory studies change our ideas, affect the implementation of theory and methods in the social sciences – and beyond? What methodological approaches and theoretical suppositions are suitable for sensory scholarship and what implications might these also hold for the senses and positioning of the researcher? By what means can scholars articulate sensory data effectively apart from writing and language?

2. Sensory Experiences – Constituents of Social Justice and Democratization

What is the nature of the sensory experiences made available in regimes that claim to foster social justice versus those made available in unjust regimes? In terms of process, what sensory experiences typify processes of democratization? Looking at individuals, can we say that limitations on sensory experiences constitute a restriction on citizenship? Marshall insisted that citizenship (civil, social, political) is a means to overcome the inequalities of the market. In the contemporary multi-faceted understandings of rights to citizenship, how do sensory experiences contribute to defining and recognizing each type?

3. Selfhood and Identity

Notions of selfhood and identity re/constitution are mediated by one’s socialization for values, norms and rituals. The formation of identity is ‘institutionalized’ through adherence to rituals and practices throughout one’s life course. How do the senses mediate these notions of selfhood? How can we delineate sensory socialization and the links to norms and cultural indices that govern social behaviour in a particular context? Where can we then place morality and cultural ideologies within the scope of such socialization?

4. Sensory Order(s), Sensory Transgressions

Given that the senses mediate norms and rules in social life, how would sensory transgression ‘disrupt’ social order, and how do these ‘violations’ relate to injustices in society and social divisions of different ethnic/class/gender groups in various cultures? What instances of sensorial ‘othering’ might there be when people employ sensory codes or categories as markers of social sameness and difference?

5. Urbanity, Space, and Place

Urban landscapes and the physical environment are, for the most part, thought of as built structures that relate to functionality in modern life. Cities, towns and rural sites are also, however, depositories of a spectrum of human experience: social relationships, memories, emotions, and their everyday negotiation. Embedded in these processes of sociality is the sensory mediation of one’s engagement with urban growth and development, hence rendering insights into the multi-sensuality of urbanity. What roles do the senses play in urban built-up spaces across different societies and cultures? How are urban spaces of habitation built, designed or re-generated sensorially?

6. Migrant sensescapes and transnationalism
Migrant flows across the globe have taken place both historically and in contemporary times. Concepts of migrant integration, incorporation, and belonging have been debated profusely in the literature on migrant communities and issues pertaining to ideas of ‘home’, transnationalism, and kinship networks. How do the senses operate or take on differentiated meanings when people relocate? What is the nature of migratory sensescapes that are produced in the process, and how do these sensory orientations translate into coping strategies, as well as reproductions of ‘home’ in a foreign environment? How have sensescapes expanded transitionally?

7. Sensory absences

How do ‘physically challenged’ social actors maneuver their environment and carry out social interactions in the absence of some of the senses such as sight or hearing? What coping strategies do they employ towards carrying out their everyday routines in different social settings? How do sensory absences count as indications of ‘disability’? Does lacking in one or more sense affect one’s presentation of self in everyday life?

8. Senses in history

How have conceptualizations of the senses changed over time? What aspects of human functioning have been defined as ‘senses’ in different periods? How were conceptualizations connected with the ‘histories of victors’? How did they affect, or how were they affected by political and economic structures? What were their differentiated impacts on people’s everyday lives? What differences can be discerned in different areas of the world? To what extent do contemporary understandings of the senses (in digitization in general, in medicine, in simulacra) herald ‘world-shattering’ change?

9. Meet-the-author– at least one session, to be announced.

Kelvin Low, National University of Singapore,
Devorah Kalekin-Fishman, University of Haifa,