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"Disciplining the senses" Panel EASST/4S-conference

Sandra Calkins, Free University of Berlin; Marianna Szczygielska, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

Many disciplines in the natural sciences still privilege the idea of an external physical reality that human sensory perceptions are mistrusted in revealing. Thus, sensual perception has been largely written out of scientific work and delegated to instruments that can produce standardized measures of physical reality. Much work in the social studies of science and technology has analyzed this whole arsenal of devices, experimental set-ups and technologies mobilized to circumvent reliance on human senses and deemed to produce “objective” data. While the focus of classic studies has been to show the ways in which experimental systems, disciplinary logics and epistemic cultures contribute to fact-making, less attention has been paid to scientists’ own sensory engagements with their research materials and resulting more-than-human affective dynamics. This holds true even as newer scholarship has grappled with sensory practices distributed across a widening array of sites, materials, and organisms. This panel addresses how the training and equipment in specific academic disciplines also “discipline” the senses and their affective potentials. It invites us to unravel the role of “disciplining” in enhancing, limiting, or distilling olfactory, tactile, gustatory, acoustic, visual and/or other multisensorial experiences in knowledge-making practices. It further asks whether and how the ways in which science is practiced in specific sites and geopolitical locations contributes to disciplining or challenging sensory perceptions. Which and whose sense perceptions are modified in the scientific endeavor? By exploring these questions, this panel seeks to drive conversations about underexplored connections between sensory experience, affect, and epistemic cultures.

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