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Learning the senses, learning through the senses: anthropology of sensory perceptions

Vincent Battesti , Joël Candau

Book in progress:
- Learning the senses, learning through the senses: anthropology of sensory perceptions [working title].
- Original title [in French]: Apprendre les sens, apprendre par les sens: anthropologie des perceptions sensorielles [working title], Vincent Battesti & Joël Candau (eds.), to be published in 2021.
(The book is intended for the collection “Univers sensoriels et sciences sociales” of Pétra publishing house.)

- Milestones:

  1. Call for papers: July 17, 2019 ✅
  2. Receipt of chapter abstracts: October 1, 2019 ✅
  3. Notifications to authors of acceptance or rejection of their proposal: October 15, 2019 ✅
  4. Deadline for receipt of completed chapters: February 3, 2020 ✅ (postponed due to Covid-19)
  5. Script evaluations and return to authors by end of May 2020 ✅
  6. Return of selected chapters (in second draft) by end of July 2020 ✅
  7. Second draft evaluations by mid-October 2020 ✅
  8. Return of selected chapters (in third draft) by end of December 2020 ✅
  9. Proofreading and compilation of the book January and February 2021 ✅
  10. Submission of full book proposal to a publishing house: March 2021 ✅
  11. Evaluation of the work by the publishing house: April-May 2021 ✅
  12. Book layout by the publishing house: (...) waiting for the publishing house
  13. Publication of work: end of 2021 - beginning 2022 (...) waiting for the publishing house.

- Summary:

A double evidence is highlighted by researchers working on the sensory, whatever their disciplinary horizon. One is that all human beings have innate sensory aptitudes whose interindividual variability remains limited by a complexion specific to the species. The other is that different social groups use different sensory modalities (Howes, 1991). Therefore, if sensory perception is an attribute of our biology, it is also learned. It is not only the crossing of the biological and the cultural, it is a biocultural phenomenon in the sense that if it is defined and limited by the information to which our sense organs are naturally sensitive, the very sensitivity of the latter is partly modulated and modelled by the social and cultural environment. That thus goes beyond the traditional diagram (Schilder, 1935) which opposes the sensation which would be of the biological order to the perception which would be of the cultural order.

This modulation and shaping of sensory perceptions are the product of interactions with a physical and social environment and of cultural learning, whether deliberate, explicit and codified or simply “evoked” (impregnation, enbodiement, etc.), implicit, not formalized. This learning, which aims to make the best use of the sensory aptitudes of individuals, according to the expectations of the social group, is thus socially and culturally modulated. Thus, in many sociocultural configurations, for example, the learning of visual skills is privileged. But in other configurations, the balance of the senses may be different and the emphasis on tactile, olfactory, and other skills may be different. Moreover, with regard to a given sense, the exploitation of the sensory sensitivity of individuals will be more or less developed according to the sociocultural configuration considered. In short, there is an enculturation of perception, induced by learning, enskilment, and modulated in historical time (think of the work of Alain Corbin) or in the range of contemporary sociocultural configurations.

The aim of this book is to bring together contributions devoted to this theme from various disciplinary backgrounds: the learning of the sensory and the sensory in learning. Enskilment is one of the best keys to understanding the social and cultural shaping of our sensory equipment, whether in early childhood when we learn to read, hear, feel (etc.) the world, or when we learn and acquire expert sensorialities (profession, various pastimes). One can also expect a reflection from social scientists on the methodological stakes that represents the observation of sensory learning and experiences — often “weakly dicible” and sometimes not at all — as well as on their own sensory learning of the social worlds in which they are immersed. For example, the anthropologist or the archaeologist must de-center him/herself from his/her own sensory universe and go through a apprenticeship to glimpse that of the social groups on which he/she works and to restore the gestures of the past.

This volume will be structured by three themes:

The project of this book should be an opportunity for fruitful exchanges between researchers from different disciplines (anthropology, biology, ethnoecology, ethnomusicology, cognitive ethology, prehistory, developmental psychology, etc.). In this interdisciplinary spirit, contributions not only from anthropology but also from the above-mentioned disciplines, as well as contributions, even experimental ones, written by four hands have been strongly encouraged.

- Call for papers (for the record):
Appel à contributions pour l’ouvrage : « Anthropologie des perceptions sensorielles : Apprendre les sens, apprendre par les sens »
- See the introduction to this book:
Conditions and modalities of sensory enskilment: an anthropological disputatio

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This page was last updated on Monday 25 April 2022 at 15:11:25. //// -----> Quote this page?
Vincent Battesti , Joël Candau , "Learning the senses, learning through the senses: anthropology of sensory perceptions " (online), Anthropoasis |, page published 1 October 2019 (consulted 16 May 2022), available on:
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