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Embodied, Emotional and Sensorial Knowledge: Perspectives from Asia

Shaping Asia

Shaping Asia

Analytical and comparative endeavours of elucidating how everyday life and its variegated avenues are mediated through the senses and the body have rarely been pursued in non-Westernacademic scholarship. Since this includes issues of morality, foodways, power relations, religious beliefs, and class dynamics, we ask what such neglect says vis-à-vis the production of knowledge in disciplinary fields such as sociology, anthropology, history, philosophy, architecture and so forth? How can the study of the body, senses, and emotions thus help us understand social relations and social structures/institutions further in different regions and societies in Asia? How does the body, senses and emotions delineate the boundaries of selfhood and “others”? How do smell, sound, touch and other sensory modalities produce moral and emotional orders which govern access to spaces in specific contexts in Asia? How are urban spaces built and designed through emotional, embodied and sensorial knowledge in Asia? How can we use the lens of emotional and sensory politics to talk about cities as sites of deep structural inequalities and asymmetries? How do food, rituals, performance, religion, tradition, consumption, aesthetics, education, popular culture, and other aspects of the everyday intersect with the embodied, sensory and emotional knowledge, and urbanity?

While there has been a long and sustained history of analysing and studying the centrality of the body in society, it has often been treated as banal, habitual, routine, and mundane. This lack of attention similarly applies to the theoretical and empirical interrogations of both the senses and emotions. The uses and shaping of sensory knowledge and its various routes and paths of circulation remain a fairly neglected domain of sociohistorical and cultural inquiry in the social
sciences. Only during the last decade have cultural meanings of the senses in society garnered scholarly attention in disciplines such as history, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and geography. More specific to societies in Asia, this workshop invites participants to reflect on and discuss emerging scholarship and collaboration in relation to the construction of knowledge.

We are interested in theoretical, methodological, empirical and comparative deliberations on these broad queries and themes critically mapping out the primacy of the body, emotions and/or senses in the production of knowledge in societies and contexts in Asia broadly conceived. These may include but are not limited to embodied, emotional and sensory ethnographies; the regulation and organisation of everyday life and the body, emotions and/or senses in settings in Asia; sensory and emotional orders and disorders; cities in Asia as sensorial spaces of power, belonging and exclusion; cities, memories and the senses; and urban change and social transformation through the body, emotions and the senses. Such lines of inquiry and knowledge making, which are grounded in sociocultural frameworks stemming from societies in Asia, avail comparative possibilities within different societies in Asia and beyond where analytically relevant, and the manner in which these interrogations are connected to one another. Conceptualising Asia in this manner underlines the mobility, porosity, and relevant comparability of embodied and sensory practices.

Such practices, to be identified through sense-making scripts across cultures and social groups, intersect with, contest and/or complement other forms and domains of knowledge to include religious beliefs, foodways, morality, aesthetics, and others. Such conceptualization importantly adds to renewed approaches towards studying a variety of social collectives across a range of different societies in Asia. This allows for a more productive analytical comparative exercise that renders the connectedness and/or disconnectedness between different sensory modalities in these contexts and beyond. As a densely populous region that has undergone manifold transformations and developments over the centuries, and as a site that is steep in religious traditions, philosophies, linguistic practices that both converge and diverge across different webs of connectivities and relationships, Asia and its connected historical and contemporary contexts serve as a productive and legitimate transcultural site for developing newer theoretical interventions in examining sensory knowledge and practice.

When? 16th and 17th February 2023

What? In-Person Workshop

Where?  National University of Singapore

Potential Panels (non-exhaustive):
• City life and urban encounters that intersect with sensory practices and expressions in
delineating group boundary making, transgression, and resistance
• Embodied remembering and forgetting across the domains of heritage, historiography and
social memory making
• The role of the senses and emotion in economic practice
• The sensory lives of material culture, the arts, and performance
• Religion, practices, and beliefs and sensory engagements with the physical world
• Sense making and embodied research in physical cultures
• Sensorialities of food, foodways and foodscapes
• Migrant sensescapes and notions of belonging

This workshop is part of the Shaping Asia network (shapingasia.net), and also co-organised with TG07 Senses & Society of the International Sociological Association. Please submit an abstract of approximately 400 words (with title, author contact details, and 5-6 keywords) by 20th November 2022 to the workshop convenors:

Kelvin Low kelvinlow@nus.edu.sg
Noorman Abdullah socnooa@nus.edu.sg
Thomas Stodulka thomas.stodulka@fu-berlin.de