Sensory Environmental Relationships: Between Memories of the Past and Imaginings of the Future

Blaž Bajič, Ana Svetel (Eds.)

by Sandi Abram (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia), Inkeri Aula (University of Eastern Finland), Helmi Järviluoma (University of Eastern Finland), Katja Hrobat Virloget (University of Primorska, Slovenia), Linda Lapiņa (Roskilde University, Denmark), Sara Nikolić (University of Belgrade, Serbia), Eeva Pärjälä (University of Eastern Finland, Finland), Saša Poljak Istenič (Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Slovenia), Sonja Pöllänen (University of Eastern Finland, Finland), Bethan Mathias Prosser (University of Brighton), Jaka Repič (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia), Milla Tiainen (University of Eastern Finland, Finland), Juhana Venalainen (University of Eastern Finland, Finland), Veronika Zavratnik (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)

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Ecological approaches growingly meet sensory issues, as both are closely related to experience and world-making. Concomitantly, ecology overpasses strict nature-culture divisions, being a mode of relationship to the worlds we not only live in but create. The contributions of this book explore different cases showing how environments are performed rather than given, with a focus on the sensory dimensions, be it through sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste or walking. They address different issues such as memory, embodiment, landscape, urban modernity, and situated knowledge, through objects ranging from a marsh, city art, urban smells, a park, pastoralism, burning tires, sauerkraut and dung, a lockdown and even shoes. By this heteroclite series, one can apprehend the everchanging and always contextual affordances which make environments continuously lived experiences, situations but also imaginations. Indeed, ecologies of perceptions are creative imaginations as much as they are anchored in materialities. In this sense, they challenge ordinary linear perspectives by showing how dynamic and processual are our beings-in-the-world, not only configured by the past and attuned to the present but oriented toward the future. The essays explore sensory situations and experiences, allowing one to grasp the cognitive, physiological, material, cultural, social, and symbolic dimensions of environmentalization. They underline the continuous co-construction of human and non-human entities, as well as the heterogeneity of our worlds of experience, not only marked by symbiosis and fluidity, but by tension and even conflict. In this respect, environments are as multiple, plural and transformative as bodies and “cultures” are and address core questions: which world(s) do we create and share? Which world(s) do we (and can we) afford?

Dr. Olivier Givre
Université Lumière-Lyon 2, France

Seeing, touching, hearing, tasting, and smelling are the incredible sensors of the Human body and anthropologists, who dedicate their lives to finding out what makes a human. This meandering volume takes us to the pivotal questions of the newly emerging field of sensory anthropology, bringing up personal memories, experiences, and imaginations, and giving insight not only into the factual lives of people but into how they feel their lives. And, undoubtedly, it also shows us how we, anthropologists, perceive and describe multiconnected human relations and environmental issues through our lenses.

Gábor Máté, ethnologist, geographer
Department of European Ethnology – Cultural Anthropology
University of Pécs, Hungary

“Sensory Environmental Relationships: Between Memories of the Past and Imaginings of the Future” is an anthology investigating questions of transforming spatialities, distinct temporalities and sensory modalities. The book brings forth encounters between the diverse methodologies, theoretical and practical starting points in different cultural contexts in Europe. Drawing from recent anthropological research on sensory studies and sensobiographies the book presents assorted approaches including walking as a method. The chapters lead the reader to diverse ethnographic directions such as defining the human-environment relationship, addressing the problem with environmental losses and artistic creativity in living environment and urban sensory transformations including methodological approaches to the act of listening and social theory. The book's strong points and originality reside in its ability to combine diverse theoretical and conceptual approaches such as affordances, grieving, memory, the act of remembering, public infrastructure and sensorium, pastoralism and olfactory landscapes related to the practices of othering. This collection of scholarly texts is a welcomed addition to contemporary sensory studies and will appeal to anyone interested in theoretical pondering and methodological choices in context of carrying out fieldwork on individual sensory phenomena and/or the whole sensorium.

Dr. Heikki Uimonen
Professor, Cultural Studies
University of Eastern Finland; Finland

Sensory environmental relationships – understood as dynamic, embodied, and emplaced affective sensory perceptions in (and of) the environment – invite us to remember the past, infuse our experiences of the present, and entice us to imagine the future. Ethnographically specific, socially and culturally nuanced approaches to environmental relationships require considerable conceptual and practical flexibility and inventiveness. Reflecting this commitment, 'Sensory Environmental Relationships' aims to offer a new anthropological understanding of how, in our individual and collective lives, senses, places, and temporalities intersect. While anthropologists have been studying the sensory environmental relationships in connection to people’s pasts and presents, futures remain conspicuously absent. By bringing different timeframes into the foreground of the analysis, this volume contributes to filling in the gap in our understanding of the human experience.

The volume’s ethnographically based contributions address the questions of how embodied and emplaced practices of sensing, while moving or staying in place in diverse environments, engender, inform, and affect the processes of remembering (and forgetting) the past, experiencing the present, and imagining the future. Drawing on the fields of environmental anthropology, sensory studies, studies of movement and mobility, memory studies, and other related (sub)disciplines, as well as diverse, epistemologically and methodologically experimental approaches, the volume explores the ways in which sensory environmental relationships “touch” upon our pasts, presents, and futures.

List of Figures
Foreword: On Recent Turns and Revolutions in the Humanities and Social Sciences, and on their Sensory Part
Rajko Muršič
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Chapter 1 Introduction
Ana Svetel and Blaž Bajič
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Chapter 2 Affordances for/of the Future: Relating/Reconfiguring Environments, Temporalities, and People
Blaž Bajič and Ana Svetel
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Chapter 3 Grieving with Utterslev Marsh: Commoning and More-than-Human Temporalities
Linda Lapiņa
Roskilde University, Denmark

Chapter 4 The City as Art and Artists in the City: Intraactions of Art and the Environment on Sensobiographic Walks
Helmi Järviluoma, Inkeri Aula, Eeva Pärjälä, Sonja
Pöllänen, Milla Tiainen, and Juhana Venäläinen
University of Eastern Finland, Finland

Chapter 5 Modernisation of the Senses: Sensory Transformations of Ljubljana in the Early Twentieth Century
Sandi Abram
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Chapter 6 Temporalities of the Mythical Park: Reassessing the Past for the Future
Saša Poljak Istenič and Katja Hrobat Virloget
ZRC SAZU and University of Primorska, Slovenia

Chapter 7 Environmental Relationships in Transhumant Pastoralism in Bohinj, North-Western Slovenian Alps
Jaka Repič
University of Ljubljan, Slovenia

Chapter 8 Lockdown Listening: Moving and Sensing the Urban Seaside Environment through Pandemic Times
Bethan Mathias Prosser
University of Brighton, UK

Chapter 9 Burning Tires, Sauerkraut and Dung: The (Classist) Boundaries of an Olfactory Landscape
Sara Nikolić
University of Belgrade, Serbia

Chapter 10 Worn-out and Wanted: Footwear and its Temporalities
Veronika Zavratnik
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia


Blaž Bajič is a researcher at the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, where, in 2017, he received his PhD. As a postdoctoral researcher in cultural studies at the School of Humanities of the University of Eastern Finland he participated in the SENSOTRA project (ERC-2015-AdG 694893). His areas of interest include anthropology of the senses, popular culture and leisure, everyday life, anthropology of space and place, urban anthropology, globalization, anthropology of art and creativity, digitization, ecology, epistemology, etc.
Recently, he co-edited 'Senses of Cities: Anthropology, Art, Sensory Transformations' (with Rajko Muršič and Sandi Abram; University of Ljubljana Press, 2022), 'Views of the Three Valleys' (with Ana Svetel and Veronika Zavratnik; University of Ljubljana Press, 2021), and 'Close-ups: Youth, the Future and Imagining Development in Solčavsko' (with Ana Svetel and Veronika Zavratnik; University of Ljubljana Press, 2022).
In 2021, Bajič was awarded the Emerging Scholar Award for outstanding early-career researchers by the OnSustainability Research Network. He is also the current president of the Slovenian Ethnological and Anthropological Association KULA.

Ana Svetel is a researcher at the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the Faculty of Arts and at the Institute for Innovation and Development of the University of Ljubljana. She completed her PhD, titled "Weather, Time, Light and Darkness in Social Dimensions of Icelandic Landscape," in 2023. Her research interests include anthropological studies on landscape, environment, perception, remoteness, seasonality, weather, luminosity, and naming. She conducted ethnographic fieldwork in northeastern Iceland and Slovenian Alps. As an assistant, she teaches practical classes in various anthropological courses at both the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ljubljana. She is a co-chair of the Young Scholars Working Group in the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF), editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the Slovene Ethnological Society Library series, and a member of the editorial board of the journal Svetovi / Worlds. In 2022, Svetel was awarded the Emerging Scholar Award for outstanding early-career researchers by the OnSustainability Research Network. She is also a published poetry and short-prose author.

sensory anthropology, sensory studies, anthropology of the senses, sensory environmental relationships, sensescapes, temporalities, walking methodologies, go-along methods, urban studies, cultural environmetnal studies, remembering, experiencing, futuring, material culture, new materialisms

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Bibliographic Information

Book Title

Sensory Environmental Relationships: Between Memories of the Past and Imaginings of the Future





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm


18 B&W

Publication date

September 2023