Making Sense: History and the Sensory Past

Our senses have histories. Practices of vision, hearing, smell, touch, and taste are not universal biological experiences. Rather, they belong to socially constructed ways of knowing that have changed over time and across diverse cultural contexts. Recognizing sensory perception as both a physical and a cultural act encourages us to historicize human bodies; it compels us to think about how the embodied practices through which we know the world are historically and culturally specific. Sensory histories investigate how the senses have influenced the social relations and cultural formations of various historical periods; how the senses have contributed to understandings of gender, race, class, ability and other constructions of identity; how discourses about normative sensory experience have been politically deployed; and how the senses have shaped human experiences of the physical environment.

Historians and other scholars are increasingly looking to the senses to understand the past. As a dynamic cultural mode of analysis, sensory histories are expanding the purview of social and cultural history. By devoting the 2012 Shannon Lectures to an historical examination of the senses, we hope to encourage a wide-ranging engagement with this burgeoning field of historical study. Spanning several regions and historical periods, our invited scholars will bring a range of interdisciplinary scholarly traditions to bear on the senses. Their innovative work will illuminate the ways that sense research might enlarge our understanding of both the past and the present and contribute to the ongoing formation of social and cultural histories, in Canada and beyond.

Fall 2012 Lecture schedule

Click here for full schedule details.

All lectures are held on Friday afternoons 3:00-4:30 in 303 Paterson Hall, Carleton University, with a reception to follow. All lectures are free and open to the public. No registration is required.

Many of our speakers will also be holding a Master class for graduate students in all disciplines on the morning of their lecture. No registration is required. Please see the full schedule for details.

September 28
“Writing Sensuous Histories”
Constance Classen
Master class to be held in the morning.

October 12
“Tasting the Past”
Carolyn Korsmeyer, University at Buffalo, SUNY
Master class to be held in the morning.

October 19
“Renumbering the Sensorium: How the Blind Man Lost a Cane and Regained His Senses”
Georgina Kleege, University of California, Berkeley

October 26
“Medical Sensations: Building an Exhibition about Medicine Through the Five Senses”
David Pantalony, Canada Science and Technology Museum
Master class to be held in the morning.

November 2
“Sensing War: Children’s Memories of Wartime Atlantic Canada, 1939-1945”
Barbara Lorenzkowski, Concordia University

November 9
“Sensory History and the American Civil War”
Mark M. Smith, University of South Carolina
Master class to be held in the morning.

Shannon Lectures 2012 Organizers

Please do not hesitate to contact us with accessibility-related requests or other questions.