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Roberta Raffaetà and Mark Nichter

On 18 December 2014, the results of the U.K.’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) evaluation exercise were released. This extensive and very costly exercise is intended to take the pulse of U.K. university-based research and now happens once every six years or so. It is also the principal tool used to determine the allocation of approximately £1.6 billion of quality-related (QR) research funding which maintains the fabric of research activity in U.K. HE institutions. Given the fiscal consequences of REF performance it is not surprising that that universities expended considerable time and effort preparing their submissions in the run-up to the exercise and that the results were pored over by academics and their managers across the country. This was a very complex set of runes to read.

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Rikke Sand Andersen, Mark Nichter and Mette Bech Risør

Inspired by the sensory turn in the humanities, anthropologists have coined the term ‘an anthropology of the senses’ to describe the study of the perceptual construction and output of bodily sensations and sense-modalities (cf. Howes 2006; Nichter 2008). Starting from the premise that different cultures and social settings configure, elaborate and extend the senses in different directions, key proponents have argued for a greater empirical and analytical attention to the cultural embeddedness and socio-biological basis of bodily perception and experience. This follows a rethinking of a series of theoretical (cf. Hinton et al. 2008; Ingold 2011) and methodological commitments in anthropology (cf. Pink 2009; Stoller 2004) that also holds relevance for anthropological studies of health and illness, which is the focus of this special issue on sensations, symptoms and healthcare seeking.