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Aromatic Pasts, Acrid Futures? Trajectories of Human Olfactory Heritage

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Professor Rose Boswell examines complex human interactions with olfaction through examples in the US and the southwest Indian Ocean islands.

About this event

Sensory studies call for a democracy of the senses in the advancement of more inclusive and equitable societies. In a sensory expressive and rich world, olfaction has obtained much public and social attention but was not deeply analysed in the social sciences until quite recently. In the last few years, the Covid-19 pandemic is again revealing the significance of olfaction to human cultural heritage and experience. Olfaction is being further affected by the anthropogenic impacts of the ‘modern’ age, apparent for example in climate change effects such as droughts and wildfires.

In this class, we will consider the delicate interplay of aroma and smell, heritage and modernity, and of the past and present. We will examine this interplay through two examples, the US and the southwest Indian Ocean islands to illustrate complex human interactions with olfaction.

Key Points/Lessons Offered:

  • The relevance of the democracy of the senses to democracy. Consideration of human multisensory interaction in the world can lead to richer and more inclusive analyses of human experience and human contribution to the world
  • Studies of olfactory heritage can also provide insight into other values and nodes of value in the world, as well as other modes of social expression and interaction
  • Analyses of multisensory human experience and olfaction can broaden studies on the impacts of climate change. We can better understand the impacts of climate change on the sensory aspects of being human.
  • In terms of theory, an important contribution is the relevance of time to sensory experience and to olfactory memory. Do we have a tendency to remember the past as aromatic? Do we romanticise certain historical periods by imagining them to be aromatic?
  • In terms of heritage theory, the research has tended to focus on tangible heritage and where there are analyses of intangible heritage, the focus has also tended to be on rituals, beliefs, practices but not on human bodily functions such as olfaction. The work presented here offers insight into past olfactory heritages (tied to colonisation/slavery) and recent olfactory inheritances (tied to wildfires and oil spills)
  • Examples cover: Histories of aroma in the southwest Indian Ocean region to Wakashio oil spill in Mauritius and US Wildfires and toxic fumes.
  • The conclusion foregrounds the immense significance of a more embodied analysis of modernisation/globalization and climate change.

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This event is presented as part of our relaunched 'Scent and Society' series. Scent and Society is an ongoing exploration of the multiplicity of perfume histories across time, and across the world.

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ABOUT PROFESSOR ROSE BOSWELL

Rose (Rosabelle) Boswell (PhD) is an anthropologist and a DSI-NRF South African Research Chair in Ocean Cultures and Heritage. She is author of three monographs, one co-edited book, two poetry books and more than 30 peer reviewed articles and book chapters. Her work has focused on the politics of intangible cultural heritage in Africa, the issue of restorative justice for slave descendants, diversity management and sensory ethnography. She has done fieldwork in Mauritius, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Seychelles and South Africa. The Research Chair position facilitates research on coastal heritage in five African countries, including South Africa. She is currently working on two books, one entitled ‘Blue Heritage: Global Perspectives on Ocean Histories and Cultures (Palgrave Macmillan, London) and ‘Between Worlds’, a poetry book to be published by RPCIG, Cameroon.

Links: Academic Page / Website

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ATTENDANCE AND REFUND POLICY

This is an online class that will take place on Zoom. The Zoom link will be sent by email approximately 24 hours before the class. Lest this email end up in your spam folder, please be sure to add hello@artandolfaction.com and noreply@event.eventbrite.com to your address book.

+ Event times are listed in Pacific Time; please use a time converter for your local start time.

+ Please download and install Zoom before the class starts, to avoid last minute technical issues.

+ Please attend, live! Learn more about how we teach here: https://artandolfaction.online/how-we-teach and our community guidelines here: https://artandolfaction.online/community-guidelines This class takes place on Zoom and will be recorded. We will share the video for this class with registered participants for 3 days after it takes place.

+ There are no refunds or transfers for this class. Note also that event tickets are non-transferable.

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Image credits: The Woolsey Fire, California. Photo courtesy of Peter Buschmann, United States Forest Service, USDA. Public Domain.

Mauritius by Lelani Badenhorst on Pexels

Professor Rose Boswell

Michael Geiger on Unsplash

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The Institute for Art and Olfaction is devoted to creative experimentation with a focus on scent. Our goal is to create new points of entry for people interested in the field of olfaction, while accommodating creative ideas in all mediums.

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