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Reflection 5: Exchange of Sensorium October 24, 2011

Posted by HSDC in Uncategorized.

The articles for this week dealt very much with the notion of how to actually experience the senses, what the senses actually mean to the mental and spiritual being. This idea was presented through the Seramatikis reading called Divination, media, and the networked body of modernity and the Stoller article titled Sensuous Scholarship. Although the subject matter of the two articles is vastly different the underlying message is essentially the same, heavily revolving around how the senses are interpreted.

The Seremetakis reading primarily relies on divination to present ideas about the sensing through the body to gain knowledge. The process of divination is described as being one that deeply involves the senses as listening to the body is an integral part of the exchange of senses that takes place during the process. Seremetakis takes this idea of “…opening of the body and its senses to exchange” (2005:338) and applies to modern society and how these ideas are sub-consciously present within society. I found Seremetakis’s analogy’s about society and divination quite fascinating because essentially everything in the world is a sort of bodily interaction and an exchange of sensory experience. Seremetakis states that everything interacting with the body in the world (modernity) “ are the substances that are deployed to represent the body in a state of self-distantiation in the coffee-cup and evil-eye readings—substances that are deployed to reassemble the body in interpersonal divination”( 2005:349). It is interesting to imagine

The second article discussed the disengaged nature of academic from that of the sensory world. Essentially article discussed how sensory experience in academic writing is broken down to such arbitrary definition and that the academic’s doing these fail to actually gain any experience from studying these observations.  Moreover he discusses how the nature of sprit possession is more than simply an act but an entire mode of experience life and its history. As Stroller notes “Songhay spirit possession is a sensory arena of counter memory. The performance of spirit possession ceremonies re-enacts…the experience of the Songhay”( 1997:63). The spirit possession process is a act to not only experience but to embody the life histories of the ancestors and loved ones. I found this quite fascinating not only because of the nature of the spirit possession but also how the anthropologist was able to so deeply engage with the “other” culture that he was able to so deeply understand their customs. I believe this is the true point of the article to successfully interact and learn to experience and sense in new ways.


Works cited:

Seramatikis, C. N (2009) ‘Divination, media, and the networked body of modernity’, American Ethnologist, 36:2, pp. 337-350

Stoller, P. (1997) sensuous Scholarship (excerpts).



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