By David Howes
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Extra resources for Sensual Relations: Engaging the Senses in Culture and Social Theory
Basically, the “reading culture” metaphor imparts both a visual and a verbal bias to any analysis. The visual bias stems from the ocularcentric character of the activity of reading. , the Taking Leave of Our Senses 19 anthropologist who relies on the metaphor of reading to order his or her experience of a culture) will tend to speculate, instead of participate. In addition to (unwittingly) positioning him- or herself as a voyeur, the textual anthropologist will have a strong tendency to reduce culture to spectacle.
In other words, perception has nothing to do with writing culture. Tyler could not have written this sentence lightly, for no scholar has plumbed the hegemony of vision more profoundly (on a linguistic level), nor come closer to evoking the spirit of orality (in writing), than he did in The Unspeakable. Tyler is truly a Nietzschean ‹gure, a sensualist among the textualists. So what prompted him to Sensual Relations 22 write perception out of ethnography? Why, in the ‹nal analysis, did he feel compelled to banish the senses from anthropology?
Smells may be disruptive and elusive; touches, interactive and personal; sights and sounds, however, can be mechanically detached from the people who produce them and can be controlled at the will of the observer. In a well-known phrase, Marshall McLuhan argued that the transition from orality to literacy gave Western society “an eye for an ear” by precipitating a shift from an oral-aural to a visual sign system (McLuhan and Fiore 1967: 44). ” Anthropologists tended to classify non-Western cultural phenomena in terms of the familiar disciplinary divisions of Western culture.
Sensual Relations: Engaging the Senses in Culture and Social Theory by David Howes