ISSN: 1477965X
First published in 2003
3 issues per volume
Volume 9 Issue 2-3
Cover Date: May 2012
Spatialities and scents: Chemical and cultural dialogues
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Authors:  Luisa Paraguai 
DOI: 10.1386/tear.9.2-3.171_1

odours,spatialities,smell maps,olfactory systems,cultural codes,situated experiences,everyday experiences

Smell can be understood as a cultural phenomenon, historically signified, enforcing social structures or transgressing them, creating social bonds – empowering or disempowering people. The perception of smell consists not only of the sensation of the odours themselves, but of the experiences and emotions associated with them. Odours, unlike colours, for instance, cannot be named, only described; in the realm of olfaction, we must make do with descriptions, analogies and recollections. It is an elusive phenomenon. From natural environments to urban spaces, the large variety of odours can stimulate our olfactory senses and evoke experiences, in which pleasant and unpleasant, and even non-smelling scents, can be combined as parameters of spatial limits and social bounds. Thus, smell can be used to structure and classify different aspects of the world, from time and space to gender and selfhood. The aim of this text is to comprehend some chemical and cultural aspects of smells and odours, and their potential to elaborate social connections and configure spatial orientations. Based on some examples from the Bororo of Brazil and the aboriginal inhabitants of the Andaman Islands, odours are understood as cultural classification systems and means of ordering the world. At the end, some artists – such as Usman Haque, Rion Willard and Jenny Marketou – will be presented since their art works proposals of mapping and describing physical spaces through smells and odours can be apprehended as a medium to create evocative experiences.
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