31 May 2022 All day Online (closed event)


It is an exciting time to be working on smell, society, and culture. The last few years have seen a huge growth in the range of exciting scholars working on smell across the arts, humanities, and social sciences. The early work of sensory historians, including Alain Corbin’s Foul and the Fragrant, and the interdisciplinary work contained in David Howes, Constance Classen, and Anthony Synott’s work Aroma have been nuanced, supplemented, and added to by a rich and evolving collection of work on smells and smelling.

In the last two years alone, books have been published on the epistemic status of smell in the medieval world, olfactory racism in the eighteenth-century Atlantic, the intersection of environmental odours and olfactory art, and the fate of body odour in the modern neoliberal west. At the same time, contemporary crises have shed a more public light on the centrality of smell to people’s daily lives. An anosmia-inducing disease has led to lockdowns that have re-shaped the sensory rhythms of daily life and made communities more aware of the smells around them.

However, unlike other sensory-scholarship, such as in ‘Sound Studies’, this work has yet to solidify into something approaching a consolidated field. This symposium brings together key figures working on smell across the arts, humanities, and social sciences in order to establish what a field of ‘Smell Studies’ might look like – or whether it is in fact desirable. What might Smell Studies’ key concerns be? What could it contribute to the wider interdisciplinary project of sensory studies? Where are its roots and what does its future look like? These are the questions that this small symposium aims to answer.

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