- Sensuous anthropology: sense and sensibility and the rehabilitation of skill
- Anthropological Notebooks
- Volume | Issue number
- XV | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Academic interest in the senses has been increasing massively. Particularly in the social
sciences and the humanities, the multisensory approach criticises the ocularcentrism as
launched by Enlightenment scholars. Studies started drawing attention to other sensory
models in everyday life in western societies and in non-western cultures. This essay
argues that in order to understand other sensory cultures, the investigator must him/
herself experience sensory perceptions of the Other. Critics may reject this methodology
for being subjective, preferring distance and objectivity. This view, however, fosters farreaching consequences. Firstly, it denigrates the epistemologies of the Other, subjecting
them to a western interpretation of knowledge. Secondly, it reconfirms power structures
within western academia with regard to who is to decide on ‘true’ knowledge. Thirdly, the
ethical point made here should be obvious: a denial of the epistemology of the Other runs
against the anthropological endeavour, i.e. Verstehen. Finally, clinging to a modernist,
western definition of science obstructs its own project in generating new knowledge.
Sensuous anthropology is pioneering towards a new global science, but its impact depends on the willingness of other disciplines to give up their tenacious positivistic principles. If not, anthropology may become discarded as ‘art’ or craft, to be excluded from the academia altogether.
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