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Forum: The Senses


Birdsall, Carolyn; Missfelder, Jan-Friedrich; Morat, Daniel; Schleif, Corine (2014). Forum: The Senses. German History, 32(2):256-273.

Abstract

Over the last decade or so the historical topic of the senses has moved from being a problem space occupied by a limited, and highly disparate, number of studies to constitute itself as a dynamic, busy field of inquiry. Works which only a few years ago sat on the margins of most scholars’ consciousness—of interest more as literary curios than as stimuli to rethink other, seemingly unconnected histories—have retroactively been accorded the status of pioneering interventions; the consolidation of the field, if still incomplete, is such that arguing collectively for the validity of the senses as objects of study has given way to the emergence of increasingly distinct divisions of opinion and ways of thinking within the field itself. In some respects this has followed a familiar dynamic of emergence rooted in the logics of the academic habitus and equally visible in the development of other subfields. Its particular significance perhaps lies in the wider frustration it articulates with the linguistic turn and the legacies of that extended moment—which defined scholarship in the humanities for a generation—and in the tangible, if inchoate, recognition across the discipline and beyond of the need to reconnect with that which (we seem to sense once more) lies anterior to discourse. At the same time we have come to understand the need to historicize not only our sensory perceptions, but also our very understanding of what the senses are, of how many of them exist, and of their functional relationship with one another: other historical cultures have answered these questions very differently. The senses thus pose anew, and in particularly acute form, the question of how far it is ever possible or desirable to peel back the discursive layers which surround the object of study to recuperate the object itself. To discuss the field and the challenges it presents the editors invited Carolyn Birdsall (Amsterdam), Jan-Friedrich Missfelder (Zürich), Daniel Morat (FU Berlin) and Corine Schleif (Arizona State) to participate in a forum. The questions were posed by the editors.

Abstract

Over the last decade or so the historical topic of the senses has moved from being a problem space occupied by a limited, and highly disparate, number of studies to constitute itself as a dynamic, busy field of inquiry. Works which only a few years ago sat on the margins of most scholars’ consciousness—of interest more as literary curios than as stimuli to rethink other, seemingly unconnected histories—have retroactively been accorded the status of pioneering interventions; the consolidation of the field, if still incomplete, is such that arguing collectively for the validity of the senses as objects of study has given way to the emergence of increasingly distinct divisions of opinion and ways of thinking within the field itself. In some respects this has followed a familiar dynamic of emergence rooted in the logics of the academic habitus and equally visible in the development of other subfields. Its particular significance perhaps lies in the wider frustration it articulates with the linguistic turn and the legacies of that extended moment—which defined scholarship in the humanities for a generation—and in the tangible, if inchoate, recognition across the discipline and beyond of the need to reconnect with that which (we seem to sense once more) lies anterior to discourse. At the same time we have come to understand the need to historicize not only our sensory perceptions, but also our very understanding of what the senses are, of how many of them exist, and of their functional relationship with one another: other historical cultures have answered these questions very differently. The senses thus pose anew, and in particularly acute form, the question of how far it is ever possible or desirable to peel back the discursive layers which surround the object of study to recuperate the object itself. To discuss the field and the challenges it presents the editors invited Carolyn Birdsall (Amsterdam), Jan-Friedrich Missfelder (Zürich), Daniel Morat (FU Berlin) and Corine Schleif (Arizona State) to participate in a forum. The questions were posed by the editors.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of History
Dewey Decimal Classification:900 History
Language:English
Date:1 June 2014
Deposited On:24 Jan 2018 09:49
Last Modified:29 Aug 2018 10:27
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0266-3554
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/gerhis/ghu034
Related URLs:https://www.recherche-portal.ch/ZAD:default_scope:ebi01_prod001753664

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