The Centre for Critical Theory, University of Nottingham, UK

Sensing Change: a two day conference

27-28 March 2013

Keynote speakers:

Prof. Nigel Thrift (University of Warwick)

Prof. Kathleen Stewart (University of Texas at Austin)

Our perception of change and of changing times is, irreducibly, sensory; we often anticipate change wordlessly: with a sense of dread or excitement or world-weariness. We may also register change belatedly, aligning our senses with events retroactively. Social, political and cultural transitions thus communicate themselves as much through dispersed sensory experiences as they do via messages and cognitive processes. Such sensory experiences are diffuse and hard to attribute, constituting intensities, moods, rhythms, atmospheres, stutterings, disruptions, banalities and frustrations. We notice change, frequently, through subtle alterations to our environments that escape straightforward rational apprehensions. Social, political and cultural transformations, then, are felt as much as they are understood. This conference will seek to investigate the question ‘what does it mean to live through change?’ by foregrounding sensory approaches.

As pioneering studies in touch, smell, taste and sound, as well as vision, have made clear, the senses play a vital role in shaping the way we interact with and attune ourselves to cultural and social environments. Theories of sense experience have long placed the human sensorium at the heart of the story of modernity. The idea of sensory overload, bombardment and enervation has come to dominate accounts of the changes brought about by the experience of modern times. Yet accounts that differentiate the sensory experiences of modernity have been few and far between, at least until recently. The notion of a homogenous sensorium bludgeoned by modernity needs to be revisited, especially in the context of the changes now being wrought by digital technologies. Equally, our understanding of the postmodern age of networks, information economies and new media requires sensory analysis.

Sensing Change offers an opportunity to reconsider the role of the senses in the grand narratives of modernity and postmodernity and to elevate sensory approaches in investigating questions of social, political and cultural change. We encourage paper proposals which foreground histories and theories of change in their examination of sensory bodies and sensory environments. Papers are encouraged in, but certainly not limited to, the following areas:

• sensory dimensions of political change (the sensory experience of revolution, uprising and political struggle, or of changing political cultures)

• sensory experiences of war and conflict

• sensory change in urban environments (urbanisation, de-urbanisation, regeneration, degeneration; sonic ecologies, techniques of illumination)

• sensing community (population displacement, diaspora, changing community relations)

• sensory selfhoods (emotions, sexualities, embodiment, disability, sensory enhancement and impairment)

• sensory discipline (training the senses, governance)

• sensory architecture (acoustics, ‘smart’ environments and haptic technologies)

• sensory marketing (neuro-aesthetics; bio-sensory mapping and data collection)

• sensory consumption (food, craft, music)

• sensing environmental change (landscape interventions, climate change)

• the changing sensory environments of work

• the changing sensory environments of home

• the changing sensory experience of leisure

• the relationship between technology and sensory change

• personal/embodied change as sensory experience (health, illness, wellbeing, aging, growing)

We invite proposals for individual papers (duration: 20 minutes) as well as for panel sessions of up to 3 papers. Please submit an abstract of up to 500 words, detailing your project together with its title, your name, academic affiliation and contact details.

If you wish to propose a session, please provide a brief statement identifying how it will address the conference theme, plus a list of speakers and paper abstracts.

The final deadline for proposals for sessions and papers is 3rd December 2012.

For any further details please contact the conference organisers:

Dr James Mansell and Dr Tracey Potts at this email.

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Centre for Medical Humanities
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