The reorganization of the sensory world



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Although anthropological and critical social theory have a long interest in sensory experience, work on the senses has intensified within the past 20 years. This article traces three sensory genealogies within anthropology: the work of Ong and McLuhan as critiqued and advanced by David Howes and the Concordia Project; phenomenological studies as advanced by Paul Stoller; and a focus on materialities as advanced by Nadia Seremetakis. Studies of individual senses, which we survey, led to calls for a more integrated approach to the senses, both within anthropology and from cinema and media studies. In various ways, the senses are constituted by their imbrication in mediated cultural practices, whether mediated by technology, discourse, or local epistemologies. We argue that integrating language and discourse into the study of the senses along with new media insights more fully articulates the significance of body-sensorial knowledge. Copyright © 2010 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.






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Porcello, T, L Meintjes, AM Ochoa and DW Samuels (2010). The reorganization of the sensory world. Annual Review of Anthropology, 39. pp. 51–66. 10.1146/annurev.anthro.012809.105042 Retrieved from

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Louise Meintjes

Marcello Lotti Professor

I am an ethnographer of music and sound, with particular interests in the voice and its mediation, the relationships among body and voice (dance and music/sound), and the ways that artistry and politics intersect. I pay attention to the craft of making music/dance, the finesse of listening to the world, and sensory experience of living and relating through the arts. Focusing on sound and the arts in this social way, my goal is to better understand the perpetuation of injury and injustice on the one hand, and how people imagine enabling futures on the other. I have worked as an ethnographer in state-of-the-art recording studios in Johannesburg, where transnational drives converge with local politics in the production of African popular musics. I continue to work with migrant Zulu singer-dancers and their fans, friends and families in “rural” KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa in contexts of exuberant pleasure and a vexed legacy of racialized violence.

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