Tuesday, December 19, 2006

New Journal: The Senses & Society

The Senses & Society, begun in 2006, is now available from the Penn Library webpage and also in paper in the ASC Library. The November issue has just arrived and includes a lead article on Coney Island (Fantasy Lands and Kinesthetic Thrills: Sensorial Consumption, the Shock of Modernity and Spectacle as Total-Body Experience at Coney Island), followed by articles on gardening (as in: The Sensory Dimensions of), Javanese Kroncong music, and Ipods. The journal is edited by Paul Gilroy (London School of Economics), David Howes (Concordia University), and Douglas Kahn (University of California, Davis) who wrote a nice set-up piece for the whole endeavor in the first issue. From Introducing Sensory Studies:

"The appearance of The Senses and Society is a sign of the sensual revolution in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. This "revolution" has disclosed the starting multiplicity of different formations of the senses in history and across (as well as within) cultures. The sensorium (meaning: "the entire perceptual apparatus as an operational complex") is an ever-shifting social and historical construct. The perceptual is cultural and political, and not simply (as psychologists and neurobiologists would have it) a matter of cognitive processes or neurological mechanisms located in the individual subject.

In addition to loosening psychology's grip on the study of perception, the emergent focus on the social life of the senses is rapidly supplanting older paradigms of cultural interpretation (e.g. cultures as "texts" or "discourses", as "worldviews" or "pictures"), and challenging conventional theories of representation. The senses mediate the relationship between self and society, mind and body, idea and object. The senses are everywhere. Thus, sensation (as opposed to but inclusive of representations in different media) is fundamental to our experience of reality, and the sociality of sensation cries out for more concerted attention from cultural studies scholars.

While providing an antidote to the logocentrism and ocularcentrism of conventional historical and social scientific accounts of "meaning", The Senses and Society will also help to problematize the increasingly homogenized version of "the body" in contemporary scholarship by advocating a modal and intermodal or relational approach to the study of our corporeal faculties. This relational focus will disrupt the presumption of the unity of the body (which has simply taken over from the modernist presumption of the unity of the subject) by highlighting the differential elaboration of the senses in diverse times and places, and underscoring the multiple forms of human sensuousness."

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