Sciences of the Senses

This group will focus on the overlapping histories of the sciences of nature and culture at the turn of the twentieth century, at a time when the human senses became central objects of investigation for anthropologists, linguists, physiologists, psychologists, technicians, and instrument makers. It will explore scientific attempts to produce knowledge through and about the senses as a way of restoring authentic continuities among disciplinary entities in flux, and producing scientific knowledge about human nature and culture.




Upcoming Meetings

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  • Wednesday, November 18, 2020 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm EST

    Emilie Skulberg, "A negative of a black hole: Jean-Pierre Luminet and perspective in black hole imaging, c. 1978-2019" (work in progress). 

  • Wednesday, December 16, 2020 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm EST


Past Meetings

  • November 13, 2019

    Richard Staley, "The Economic Explanation" (in prep.) and "Sensory Studies, or When Physics was Psychophysics: Ernst Mach and Physics Between Physiology and Psychology, 1860-71" (2018).  

  • January 15, 2020

    John Tresch, "The Prophet and the Pendulum; Sensational Science and Audiovisual Phantasmagoria around 1848" (2011) and "Introduction: Audio/Visual" (2011, with Mara Mills). 

  • February 19, 2020

    Judith Kaplan, "Intelligible Pitch," (in prep.). 
    Jonathan Sterne, "Hello!" (2003), in The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction. 

  • March 18, 2020

    Postponed (COVID-19)
    Omar Nasim, "Ornamental Mind" 

  • April 15, 2020

    Omar Nasim, "Ornamental Mind," (work in progress).  

  • May 20, 2020

    Etienne Benson, "Swimming in Data" (in prep.) & "Sensing a River" (in prep.). 

  • June 17, 2020

    Laurel Waycott, "Taste and Civilization in 'The Yellow Wall-Paper'" (2019). 

  • July 15, 2020

    Cameron Brinitzer, "The Colour Sense: Between the Lab, Field, and Garden" (work in progress). 

  • August 19, 2020

    Gabriel Coren, "Sounding Ethnos: composition by field" (work in progress). 

  • September 16, 2020

    For this session, there will be no pre-circulated reading. Instead, we invite you to bring an image, slide, or sound file from your current research to share and discuss. We’ll look and listen together, and talk about how we might analyze the things people bring. 

Group Conveners

  • cameronbrinitzer's picture

    Cameron Brinitzer

    Cameron Brinitzer is a PhD candidate in the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. 


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    Judith Kaplan

    Judy Kaplan is a cultural and intellectual historian of the human sciences with a special interest in the history of linguistic research. Currently a teaching fellow with the Integrated Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania, she was previously a Mellon fellow with the Wolf Humanities Forum and a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.


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