21A.260 Culture, Embodiment and the Senses

As taught in: Fall 2005

Illustration of a man dissecting a human arm.  Clip art drug bottles and herbs float in the air.
Anatomy and Apothecary. (Image by MIT OpenCourseWare. Main image courtesy of theĀ National Institutes of Health.)




Prof. Erica James

Course Features

Course Description

Culture, Embodiment, and the Senses will provide an historical and cross-cultural analysis of the politics of sensory experience. The subject will address western philosophical debates about mind, brain, emotion, and the body and the historical value placed upon sight, reason, and rationality, versus smell, taste, and touch as acceptable modes of knowing and knowledge production. We will assess cultural traditions that challenge scientific interpretations of experience arising from western philosophical and physiological models. The class will examine how sensory experience lies beyond the realm of individual physiological or psychological responses and occurs within a culturally elaborated field of social relations. Finally, we will debate how discourse about the senses is a product of particular modes of knowledge production that are themselves contested fields of power relations.