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Encountering the Supernatural

A Phenomenological Account of Mind

Julia Cassaniti and Tanya Marie Luhrmann

In this article we compare the encounter with the supernatural—experiences in which a person senses the immaterial—in Thailand and in the United States. These experiences appear to be shaped by different conceptions of the mind. In the US, there is a sharp, natural division between one's mind and the world; in Thailand, individuals have the moral responsibility to control their minds. These differences appear to explain how people identify and sense the supernatural. In the US, it is an external, responsive agent; in Thailand, it is an energy that escapes from an uncontrolled mind. Here we approach phenomenology—the experience of experience—comparatively, identifying patterns in social expectations that affect the ways in which humans think, feel, and sense. We take an experiential category of life that we know to be universal and use it to analyze cultural concepts that influence the enactment and interpretation of feeling and sensing.

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Patrick Lucas

In recent years, the culturally distinctive Tunpu, a people group in southwestern China, have been reimagined by outsiders, including media, tourist companies, scholars, and especially Han Chinese from other regions in a search for perceived lost roots of Chineseness. Building upon a Tunpu narrative of migration to the region during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) period, these outsiders imagine Tunpu sociocultural alienness to be representative of ancient unchanged Ming-period character. Thus romanticized, the Tunpu become an unspoiled reservoir where an authentic national Chinese essence can be rediscovered. Through a complex process of embodied engagement with the Tunpu landscape and its objects, however, it is a class of non-Tunpu settlement that becomes celebrated by these outside actors as ideal representation of Tunpu settlement and architecture. This total process fundamentally transforms Tunpu time and place. Yet, it also interacts intricately with local knowledge, and leads to complex local responses and reappropriations of new historical elements.

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Senses of Spatial Equilibrium and the Journey

Confounded, Discomposed, Recomposed

Andrew Irving

This special issue of Journeys brings together writers whose origins and research expeditions lie in different parts of the world (United Kingdom, Germany, India, Africa, Japan and the Caribbean) to explore the relationship between different kinds of movement (walking, voyaging, bus-tours, animal-tracking) and the accompanying transformations in body and perception that emerge when journeying near and far from home. Journeys are indelibly associated with movement through lands and across seas, but like songs and stories, they also are works of composition, sometimes carefully crafted, other times improvised, often unique, and frequently unfinished. Although a journey, like any other work of composition, unfolds over time and can be thought to have a narrative structure of beginning, middle, and end, it is likely to contain many unstructured moments: unexpected detours, various contingencies and chance encounters, moments of social and cultural disorientation, and unresolved questions that are neither planned nor initiated by the author. Journeys, therefore, can often take us into strange “inner” places. Perhaps then we might say that journeys involve a process of discomposition, an unravelling and disordering of habitual thoughts, perceptions, feelings, and normative presuppositions, which are made explicit in the face of new lands and may become temporarily reconstituted amid the diversity of people one encounters there.

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Elusive Fungus?

Forms of Attraction in Multispecies World Making

Michael J. Hathaway

This article explores how attraction, a companion term to elusiveness, reveals insights into multispecies worlds by showing how different organisms such as the matsutake mushroom interpret the world and interact with each other, whether or not humans are involved. Building on scholarly interest in the ‘animal turn’ (explorations of the human-animal relationship), this article moves beyond human-centered scholarship by using, but also modifying, the concept of umwelt introduced by the Baltic German biologist Jakob von Uexküll. Employing a critical social scientific reading of the biological literature that analyzes its findings, as well as challenges its animal-centric models of agency and behavior, I argue that this perspective helps us better understand ourselves as humans in a world that is much more than human.

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Blue Sky Matter

Toward an (In-flight) Understanding of the Sensuousness of Mobilities Design

Ole B. Jensen and Phillip Vannini

In this article we present a theoretical framework for an understanding of the relationship between the material design of mobilities technologies and the multisensorial human body. Situating our work in the emerging field of “mobilities design” within the broader so-called mobilities turn, we focus on two very different aircraft types and their design (the large passenger jet Boeing 737 and the small propeller aircraft DHC-2) in order to explore the sensuousness of in-flight experience and atmosphere. We focus on the interior design of the aircraft as well as on their technical capacities, and end with a conclusion that offers a fl at ontological view of mobilities design. We argue that according the material design of mobilities technologies must be inscribed on equal terms with the sensing human subject if we are to claim that we have reached a better understanding of how mobility feels.

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'. . . A Banner I could not Hold Aloft'

Alfred Döblin and Judaism

Gabriele Sander

On 10 November 1904, the then twenty-six year-old medical student Alfred Döblin wrote a highly instructive and, in two senses, confessional letter from Freiburg to Else Lasker–Schüler.

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Daisuke Miyao

The process of modernization in Japan appeared as a separation of the senses and remapping of the body, particularly privileging the sense of vision. How did the filmmakers, critics, and novelists in the 1920s and 1930s respond to such a reorganization of the body and the elevation of vision in the context of film culture? How did they formulate a cinematic discourse on remapping the body when the status of cinema was still in flux and its definition was debated? Focusing on cinematic commentary made by different writers, this article tackles these questions. Sato Haruo, Ozu Yasujiro, and Iwasaki Akira questioned the separation of the senses, which was often enforced by state. Inspired by German cinema released in Japan at that time, they explored the notion of the haptic in cinema and problematized the privileged sense of vision in this new visual medium.

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Jonathan O. Chimakonam and Victor C. A. Nweke

We argue that Menkiti and Gyekye – the forerunners in Afro-communitarianism, to different extents both trivialise the notion of human rights. While Menkiti prioritises community and denies human rights, Gyekye who upholds human rights subsumes these to the community. We contend that both are however mistaken in their trivial conceptions of human rights. To clarify the confusion, we propose that the notion of rights in Afro-communitarianism can have two possible senses namely, rights as participatory and rights as entitlements and that the failure to recognise these senses was what led Menkiti to a fringed position and Gyekye to a difficult position. We then conclude that Afro-communitarianism, in both Menkiti and Gyekye harbours a certain notion of rights contrary to Menkiti’s assumption but it is not one that accommodates the idea of inalienability contrary to Gyekye’s suggestion.

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Annika Strauss

This article puts forward an experiential teaching method for becoming aware of, getting access to, and giving meaning to the sensory experiences that constitute and shape learning processes during social anthropological fieldwork. While social anthropologists use all their senses in the field, the preparation and processing of fieldwork are limited to certain senses. In accordance with the academic habitus, it is common to discuss theoretical texts pre-fieldwork and almost exclusively rely on making meaning of written fieldwork material afterwards. While cognitively produced textual sources and techniques of verbalisation (e.g. presentations) are extensively focused on, the body, emotional and sensory experiences are often overlooked in academic discourse and practices. The proposed experiential method integrates the dimensions of sensory experiences in classes, colloquiums and workshops, and brings into practice a teaching approach that includes the analysis of embodied knowledge and stresses its importance as an ethnographic source.

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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.