CFP: Ambient Matter: Sensorial Engagements with a Toxic World (AAA)

AAA CfP image_Sensorial engagements

Air pollution in Ulaabaatar.

American Anthropological Association Meetings
Minneapolis, MN. November 16-20, 2016
Panel title: Ambient Matter: Sensorial Engagements with a Toxic World

Panel abstract: An anthropological attunement to the body’s sensorial reaction and orientation to toxic environments is ever more crucial as we dwell in an atmosphere of uncertainty. Bodies are exposed to an array of material configurations from particulates, chemicals, and pathogens that circulate in the air we breathe and absorb. From visible ambient matters like smog to odorless mixtures like asbestos, these toxic conditions force us to continually adapt to and make sense of the spaces we inhabit.

Technological responses to these toxic encounters are also attentive to the sensorial: air quality sensors render invisible particles visible as metric; climate models simulate images of risk zones; home alert systems sound to caution invisible, odorless carbon monoxide leaks; bottled “fresh air” promotes a clean air taste. These devices express our atmospheres and dwell with us, influencing our bodily ways or interpreting our toxic surroundings.

This panel aims to resurface the value of the sensorial and encourages its participants to reflect on how the sensory can be ethnographically informative in understanding what it means to dwell in an environmentally hazardous landscape. It also reveals how different senses – sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch – are constantly evolving in response not only to environments but also to social conditions, strategies, and devices that attempt to alter, enhance, and suppress sensory experience with the air that circulates around and within us.

How do sensorial reactions become forms of evidence through which bodies orient around toxic environments? In what ways do sensorial attunements have social or political effects? How are sensory experiences attached or detached from human and nonhuman relationships?

How do bodies become sensitive or de-sensitized to environmental conditions?

This panel encourages papers to consider the relationship between the sensorial, bodily knowledge, and the environment. Enfolding sensory objects and sensory experiences into the fold of medical and environmental anthropology, this panel aims to examine pressing public health and environmental issues of our time through the lens of the sensorial. Topics include but are not limited to air pollution, chemical exposures, allergies, airborne diseases, and infrastructural degradation.

Keywords: sensorial, body, toxicity, atmosphere, environment

Organizer: Chisato Fukuda (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Please send your 250 word abstracts to by Wednesday, April 6th.