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Conditions and modalities of sensory enskilment: an anthropological disputatio

Vincent Battesti , Joël Candau

 Conditions and modalities of sensory enskilment: an anthropological disputatio
 Original title (In French): Conditions et modalités des apprentissages sensoriels: une disputatio anthropologique
Introductory text — co-written by Vincent Battesti & Joël Candau —
in Vincent Battesti & Joël Candau (eds.) — Apprendre les sens, apprendre par les sens : Anthropologie des perceptions sensorielles, p. 9-68
Éditions Pétra, “Univers sensoriels et sciences sociales” series, Dec. 2023, 600 p.
ISBN: 978-2-84743-314-2


Research on the sensory reveals a dual reality. One is that all human beings possess innate sensory abilities, the interindividual variability of which is constrained by a species-specific nature. The other is that social groups implement diverse sensory modalities. Therefore, if sensory perception is an attribute of our biology, it is also learned. It is not merely the intersection of the biological and the cultural; it is a biocultural phenomenon. Indeed, sensory perception is defined and limited by the information to which our sense organs are naturally sensitive, but the sensitivity of these organs is partly modulated and shaped by the social and cultural environment. Considering sensory learning requires transcending the classical framework that opposes biological sensation to cultural perception. This chapter on sensory learning and learning through the senses presents twenty contributions that offer a broad and rich panorama of the ways in which humans, and even non-humans, share the sensory experience.

This introductory chapter also presents, in perhaps a perplexing form, a dialogue between its two authors. Without ever concealing their theoretical divergences, both seek to capitalize on their penchant for scientific ‘dispute’: identifying their disagreements, explicating them, and ideally, surpassing them to achieve a better understanding of the sensory phenomenon.

Members of the Miao minority, Guiyang Shi, Guizhou Sheng, China, Sept. 5th, 2015 © Vincent Battesti

 Go to the book page: Learning the senses, learning through the senses: Anthropology of sensory perceptions.

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Vincent Battesti , Joël Candau , "Conditions and modalities of sensory enskilment: an anthropological disputatio " (online), Anthropoasis |, page published 4 December 2023 (consulted 12 May 2024), available on: