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 Turku, Finland), Juhana Venalainen (University of Eastern Finland, Finland)

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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 coconstruction 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 – 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. Bringing different timeframes into the foreground of the analysis, this volume contributes to filling in the gap in our understanding of the complex interplay of sensing, place and time.
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, 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.

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. 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 "the 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 OnSustainability Research Network. He is also the current president of the Slovenian Ethnological and Anthropological Association KULA.

Ana Svetel works as a researcher at the Department of Etnology and Cultural Anthropology at the Faculty of Arts and at Institute for Innovation and Development of University of Ljubljana. 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. She is a co-chair of Young Scholars Working Group in the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF) and a member of the editorial boards of the Bulletin of the Slovene Ethnological Society Library series and journal Svetovi / Worlds. In 2022, Svetel was awarded the Emerging Scholar Award for outstanding early-career researchers by OnSustainability Research Network

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