Author Archives: mriceanthropologist
While I would not really want to lose any of my major 5 senses: Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight and Sound. I would give up the sense of hearing ahead of sight if limited to a choice between being deaf or being blind–I would choose to be deaf.
Our world is so visual and to watch a movie or a TV show, and unless they have descriptive audio to not have a clue what is going on screen must be frustrating. To not be able to read a magazine or a newspaper, or read anything that is not written in Braille or available as an audio-book has to be so limiting.
As Oliver Sacks says “we have spent a lifetime learning to see” and so it must be for people born blind, they have spent their whole lives learning to live without sight using their senses of touch and hearing in ways that most sighted people don’t.
But we also depend so much on our sense of hearing–to be able to hear smoke alarms for example. Even at York University, while the smoke alarms blare real loudly, I do not think that the alarms have any visual cues to alert deaf students that their is a fire—so they would have to rely on their sense of smell to detect smoke, or on other hearing students informing them to vacate the building. I do think that some buildings are starting to upgrade to use combined auditory and visual alarms—but I am pretty sure that as in most things, York is behind the curve in this area. I know I have seen a Hearing Assistant help out at any lectures in York–but then again, I am also not attending 1000 student strong Psychology lectures either, and I have to believe that there are at least a few deaf/hard of hearing students at York.
Again though, as a music lover–while I might be able to feel the vibrations of the music, this would not be the same as hearing it–or hearing a lecture, or having to throw subtitles on everything.
So truly would I want to live without hearing? No, probably not, especially since “one does not sense in isolation–perception is always linked to behavior and movement, to reaching out and exploring the world.” And Virgil, in the Sacks article, found walking “scary” and “confusing” without using his sense of touch to augment what he was seeing.
If I had to pick ONE sense out of the 5 main senses to live without, I would probably go with SMELL/OLFACTORY (Ironic as this is my end-of-term project sense I have to investigate for my sense-scape) but there are just some things that smell SO NASTY, that it must be pretty good not to be able to smell how hideous a Ryerson University washroom can get (Honestly why are the bathrooms at Rye-High always so disgusting?!) and while I enjoy the smell of French Vanilla Perfume (Ladies take note) I would be willing to give up the sense of smell, even if involved never smelling the awesomeness that is sizzling Bacon–even though lacking a sense of smell would probably affect my Gustatory sense, and steaks wrapped in bacon might not taste as awesome as they normally would without being able to smell them.
Sight and hearing are the two primary senses, and I would not be able to live in a world where I could not experience the touch of a beautiful woman, and not being able to taste food would be horrible, so smell to me is least important of the 5 senses and one I could, if forced by some tragic event, to live without.
The path to my heart runs straight through my stomach as I love food more than almost anything. The only reason I don’t weigh 400lbs is because I am a relatively tall dude at 6’3″, still have a reasonably fast metabolism–and work out at least 3 times a week.
When I am feeling like eating something unhealthy–and getting what in my mind are some of the best BIG burgers in the City, there is only one restaurant in Toronto that will do. Dangerous Dan’s Diner–a small restaurant at the corner of Queen Street East and Broadview Avenue, located directly across from Jilly’s “Gentlemen’s” Club.
Dangerous Dan’s is famous for their epic burgers which can be seen in this video. While epic is a word that is tossed around too much these days, it truly applies when confronted with the famous Colossal Colon Clogger Combo which consists of a 24 Ounce Burger topped with a quarter pound of cheese, another quarter pound of glorious bacon, all the standard burger fixings (lettuce, onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard, mayo and hot peppers) and two fried eggs. Yes, the burger is topped with not one but two over-easy eggs.
As if the burger alone wasn’t enough to feed 3 people, it comes with a “small” Poutine and a large milk-shake. Dan’s has the standard chocolate, strawberry and vanilla-but those in the know opt for the Elvis shake which is an awesome concoction made of chocolate ice cream, banana, and Kraft peanut butter. SO GOOD!
As Dan’s Owner, Chef James McKinnon says: ” I just think you should never try and make a burger too healthy. A burger’s supposed to be comfort food and it’s supposed to make you feel good. When people try and make it something that’s really good for you rather than tasting good, I think it’s missing the point.” I couldn’t agree more.
I would love to see Adam Richman, the Man vs Food guy, tackle this awesome burger. I bet he could conquer it as he has conquered some pretty amazing competitive eating challenges on his shows Man vs Food and Man vs Food Nation where Adam Richman who has held virtually every job in the Restaurant business travels across America to tackle various restaurant food challenges from eating nuclear spicy chicken wings–to eating massive Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches.
Dan’s is diner food done right. Every other restaurant opening up in Toronto seems to be a Shawarma place, Burrito place, Yuppie Burger Chain (Hero Burger, Gourmet Burger Co, Acme Burger, etc.) or some flavor of Asian-Fusion–and we are rapidly losing our old-school Fish N Chips and traditional European style diners.
Gone are the days when one can get a piece of MEATLOAF just anywhere, or Shepard’s Pie. Heck I bet people reading this don’t even know what a Shepard’s Pie is–and that is right up there with Poutine, Bacon and Maple Syrup as being food I grew up on. But North American foods, and European foods like Perogies and Schnitzels are increasingly hard to find in Toronto as we cater more and more to other ethnic tastes.
I don’t mind a good Pho Soup, and I am one of the few white boys who can handle REAL Jerk Chicken, Curried Goat and Oxtail platters (Albert’s, Mr. Jerk and Caribbean Queen are my faves)–but like Sutton says in his article, I think it is also important to preserve tastes from the past, and pass those recipes down from father to son (or mother to daughter) so that they are preserved and will not be forgotten–and this includes “white people” food as European style foods, even Traditional French style food is increasingly harder to find in Toronto especially at a price that the middle class can afford.
That is one thing I truly miss about living in Thunder Bay Ontario where I did two years of Anthropology at Lakehead University–the absolutely awesome Finnish, Scandinavian and Polish food available in that city.
Sound is all around us. Indeed life can be summed up as a series of beeps and boops, with one very long BEEP at the end if you happen to die in a hospital setting.
Finding Quiet or Peace, especially in an urban environment is increasingly difficult, and there are times when not having such peace can be darn annoying. I was not surprised to read in the article about the ban on those damn annoying HELLS BELLS Church bells that churches felt the need to blast constantly to get their flock of sheep in the door.
If I had to live next to a Church and be woken up early on a Sunday morning to the sound of church bells while a bunch of old people rapidly approaching death decide that at 90 years of age it might be a good idea to start going to church again, I would probably want the churches to stop ringing their bells or at least quiet them down a bit myself.
I remember my first apartment in Toronto where I lived on the 3rd floor in this old building on College street–and at first things weren’t too bad, but then my neighbors on the 2nd floor, one floor below me–got into the habit of playing @#$ing Spice Girls, Lady GaGa or some other gay-friendly music at like 2 or 3 in the morning JUST BLASTING. I am talking floor and walls vibrating, can’t hear your own TV when it is on maximum volume kind of blasting. Worse, they thought they could sing, and oh hell no, Simon Cowell would have torn them a new one.
At first I tried to be cool about it, because it was mostly restricted to Friday and Saturday night and you kind of expect noise then (but still 3 or 4am is a bit excessive)–but then they started doing that stuff through the week, like Tuesdays at 3 in the morning. I guess they would get back from a bar and decide to just go all night playing the most god awful music imaginable. Wouldn’t be so bad if there was a little AC/DC, Nirvana or maybe even Smashing Pumpkins in there. But nope–techno BOOM BOOM BOOM music.
Then once they got the word that the music was annoying us, as I complained to the landlord and made a couple noise complaints–they of course decided to annoy us even further by putting ONE song on repeat at max volume and playing that for like 2 hours straight. I am guessing they left the house when they did that, but my god I swear I wanted to kill them as that was the most annoying thing ever, and I rationalized it as–yeah I will probably have to do 5 to 10 in jail, but I will get a free education paid for by the taxpayers, and in 5 or 10 years they will STILL be dead and I will be out free to do my thing.
Instead I would retaliate by blasting Slayer, Slipknot and the loudest Death Metal I could get my hands on with my speakers turned up to 11 during the day when I thought they would be all hung-over, and when no-one could do nothing as during the day you can pretty much go as loud as you want. Legally. Screw with me, I’ll screw with you is how I looked at it.
Finally me and my girlfriend at the time just had enough as we were both going to school and trying to work full time jobs–and we moved out, breaking our lease. We moved into another apartment building and lived there for a year, before they decided to start renovating units as people moved out so we had a steady stream of construction related noise but at least it would stop around 6 at night or so.
While sound can create moods and trigger memories, and is of course necessary for verbal communication–there are just some sounds that most people can’t stand, like nails scratching on a chalk-board or grinding TTC Subway rails.
This is why I agree with Shopper’s Drug Mart for deciding NOT to play Christmas music until after November 11th, as really over a month of the same 200 odd Christmas songs has got to become incredibly annoying for the poor souls who are forced to work Christmas retail.
I mean on the most part music played in stores sucks 365 days a year as it is almost all Top 40 pop-tunes and golden oldies from the 50’s and 60’s selected as those songs are seen as ones that should not offend anyone regardless to their religious or cultural background–which is why so many of us in stores, try to drown out whatever is playing on the stores speakers by blasting our iPods.
One thing is for sure with all the noise everywhere and with how loud some dudes have their iPods cranking noise directly into their ear-canals, a sure-fire investment is in hearing aid products as in 30 or 40 years there will be a lot of deaf or near-deaf people walking around.
What if our ways of knowing the world are not as obvious, superior and natural as we may think?
Instead of just viewing sense we must know how to approach our senses how to study our senses and how to see the history behind our senses.
How can an object tell a story without speaking?
What is taste without smell? What is smell without vision?
What is society? Do we have to follow certain odour standards to be a part of this society ? Then why? What’s wrong with our natural scent?
Do all individuals experience the same thing when he/she uses the sensoria in that particular way? Or will the experiences be different but ultimately have the same conclusion?
How can one truly get an adequate and whole sense of our world by observing it through only one sense?
Until we realize this restriction and make an effort to break free from it, we will waste away the beauty of our senses and the variety of experiences it could possibly give us.
As the world continues to be in constant movement, we are better off looking at it through the dynamic prism of holism and appreciation.
Being able to touch and smell things give a much better and broader ethnographic experience.
I think Sensory Museums are a wonderful, if not unsanitary, idea.
Our senses are more important to us than we ever knew.
In this time and place scent was seen to cross the boundaries of life and death, worldly and divine, man and God, the soul and Christ.
I started to dislike the scent of roses after going to my grandparent’s funerals. Sometimes, I would walk by and catch their scent and I would feel such fear. I would always associate this scent to death and sorrow.
“Seselelame” can be thought of a “sixth sense.” It doesn’t really involve any of the five senses. It’s something that your instinct feels.
Can we facilitate seselelame, an experience that is at once sensorial, emotional, and capable of triggering memorative and intellectual associations?
In, “Rocks, Walks, and Talks in West Africa, Guertz describes the Anlo-Ewe and how they use their senses. Guertz analyzes traditonal views on the senses and how certain Anlo experiences fall outside of western comprehension. One example is “sesetonume, which is the sensations your mouth feels while talking and anything else your mouth may feel (Guerts 182)
As someone who recently, (within the past 3 months) had all 4 of their “Wisdom” teeth removed, all at once, I can totally relate to feeling funny sensations in my mouth as I tried to adjust and recover from my surgery. Of course I was also stoned out of my mind from all the heavy duty narcotics and pain medications they put me on but that’s another story. It was not fun to be reduced to eating nothing but scrambled eggs, Jello, Ice Cream and Boost shakes for the first couple of days. Then having to rinse my mouth out 3 times a day with a foul mixture of salt and baking soda for the next 2 weeks (my teeth never had been shinier or whiter though!) had me cursing “sesetonume.”And when I finally could enjoy a proper burger, multiple BURGASMS were experienced and that first recovery burger was the best burger I have ever had in my life.
I found it interesting that the Anlo considered rocks to have spiritual qualities, but from what little I know of Islam, I believe that the prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven on a giant rock—and of course the 10 commandments were made of rock tablets, and Jesus Christ was covered with a giant rock after death and yet, according to Christian Legend, still managed to rise up from the dead as if nothing had happened 3 days after being crucified. So clearly, rocks have sacred meaning for many different religions.
The Classen article, “The Breath of God”, describes scents within the Jewish-Christian framework and how scent used to be historically. Christians believed that those individuals that were sanctified would have the scent of God’s breath and their scent would signify the presence of God near them (Claseen 36). Most often the smell of God’s breath would be associated with saints and others close to the church at the time of their death or shortly after (Classen 37).
Smells can have both natural and supernatural qualities, and God’s breath was the smell of ambrosia, so pleasing smells were associated with God (Classen 44). Individuals that wanted to smell holy would often burn incense or perfumes during First Communions, Christening’s, Weddings and Funerals.
Hell and evil is of course associated with the smell of filth and dirt, so Lucifer Satan is usually described as reeking of sulfur, excrement and rotting flesh (Classen 48).
Classen and Howes main thesis in “Museum as a Sense Scape” is that since items are multi-sensory, it is virtually impossible for any individual who is an outsider to another culture to completely understand the significance of an artifact in that culture without first trying to understand how people from that culture use their senses to interact with the object in question (Classen & Howes 217-9).
Museums are often full of artifacts and materials that were literally stolen from peoples grave sites. And in the case of ancient Egyptian’s and “Bog People” even their physical mummified bodies are put on display, evil curses be damned!
Museums like the Royal Ontario Museum perpetuate power and misrepresentation. Even at a reduced $15 per adult (down from $24 per adult), the ROM is priced out of the reach of many Toronto families—as with 2 adults that is $30, then 2 kids is another $24, for a grand total of $54 for a one time visit to a museum. When a Season Pass at Canada’s Wonderland is around $60, and when Wonderland offers a much greater sensory experience, it is no wonder why the only people who frequent museums tend to be rich old white people with too much time on their hands, or students.
When Museums display other people’s historical objects they are pushing their own ideas of why a particular object is important, and most often the cultural group that the museum “borrowed” the objects from usually do not benefit in any way from having their materials put on display.
This is why I prefer to avoid museums and engage more in participatory cultural experiences and one of the greatest experiences of my life was being selected to attend a 5 week long French Language Learning Bursary in Jonquiere Quebec, and as part of the program, I got to live in a very Francophone community, attend classes where everything was conducted in French, and extra-curricular activities such as bowling, mini-golf and Whale Watching on Lake Tadousac were all done in French.
At the end of the 5 weeks I felt like I could actually conduct a semi intelligent basic conversation in French, as literally all of my senses were attuned to French as I heard French daily, and listened to French radio. I watched French TV, French Movies and read French newspapers and magazines. I ate French cuisine, tasted and drank awesome French wines and smelled my fair share of French perfume as lucky for me there were 4 girls for every guy on the exchange that year. All experiences that one does not get to experience in a boring University French class where all one does is nit-pick grammar, and conjugate verbs endlessly.
I think this is where Education has failed miserably in the past and even now, most non-science courses only ever utilize 2 of the 5 senses, sight and hearing. Why in English do we not act out literature? Or why not smell or taste or touch objects from a historical period in our history classes? Why is it that once we get out of Kindergarten it is expected that learners should abandon most of their sensorium to focus on learning with only our eyes and ears? Is that practical? Is that wise? I would argue that such a learning system is completely sensory-challenged.
REFLECTION: Desjarlais 27 Ways of Viewing
Michael Rice, October 1, 2012.
“Vision is the dominant sensory mode in many human societies” (Desjarlais, 54) and this holds true for Buddhist and Hindu societies in South Asia. Tibetan Buddhism gives priority to vision over the other senses, and the sem or the “heart-mind” is really what sees and not the eyes. The “heart-mind” helps to explain how one can envision landscapes and objects even when the eyes are closed.
This is similar to artists who can “see” a painting on a canvas before they even begin to blend their primary colors together, or who can envision a sculpture in a solid block of ice.
At the same time, what is not seen could not be spoken of definitively for the Yolmo, so even objects viewed with the “heart-mind” had to actually exist, be physical and be able to be viewed by others. “Well, nobody has actually seen heaven, nobody has actually seen hell. It’s just that people talk about going to heaven or hell after we die, but who has seen it?” (Desjarlais, 66).
To the Yolmo, like us, to see something is to know it or to be familiar with it. In this way the Yolmo could see hardship, and their youth who traveled could go and see something of the world. To the Yolmo it was not enough to have heard about a thing, or even to have seen an event to know truth—but great truths needed to be written down. “When people see things written, they believe it to be true. That’s the way they think” (Desjarlais, 70).
I found the watching discussions on Page 81 to be interesting, as it reminds me of living in small town Canada where it always seems that everyone is watching you at all times, and indeed you had to be very careful who you were seen with or all the gossip girls in town would be quick to spread rumours—which also had me thinking of our obsession with celebrities, which if a tabloid sees a single guy and a girl holding hands, they are automatically viewed as a “dating” couple.
For the Yolmo acts of seeing and being seen are seeded with thoughts similar to Western thoughts and these include feelings of: presence or absence, contact or disconnection, fulfilment or longing, reality, appearance, illusion, clarity or opacity, purity or taint, comfort or violence, life and death.
AP/ANTH 3560: Anthropology of The Senses
LAB 1 Essay
At first glance, the object in question is a small glass bottle, relatively small which kind of looks like the little glass bottles they get you to pee into at the doctor’s office. Fortunately this bottle does not smell of urine, and does not contain any sort of yellow liquid. WHEW!
The bottle is sealed with a white lid, reinforcing the doctor’s bottles, or plastic prescription pill bottles. The bottle contains small grains of what, visually, could be either sand or pepper.
On opening the bottle, I pour a small amount into the white lid, feeling the substance which feels gritty or grainy against my skin. This does not feel like sand, as having spent as much time as possible lounging around the beach all summer, I am very familiar with how sand feels against ones skin. Nope this is not sand.
Smelling the lid, it smells like black pepper. As the substance in question was deemed to be edible, and feeling adventurous, I decided to taste a small amount, and why yes, indeed, it tastes exactly like black pepper. At this point I can safely conclude based on sight, taste, touch and smell that the small grains in the small glass pepper, is black pepper.
But does black pepper make a sound? At this point my A.D.D. is going nuts as I am bored with my object, and enviously checking out other peoples objects. People have cool noise-makers, kaleidoscope things, tennis balls—others got to leave class and go outside on a nice day. Me, I am examining black pepper and wondering if anyone would notice if I bogarted a small amount for my home kitchen–but really I don’t know where that pepper’s been. Oh crap, I tasted it, didn’t I. Oh well, too late now and I have eaten Aramark cafeteria food and lived.
Putting the lid back on and sealing it tight, after looking at my cellphone clock–realizing that I had another 15 minutes left, I vigorously shake the bottle and the pepper inside doesn’t make any sound when shaken in this bottle.
To the touch, the bottle feels like glass and visually looks like glass. There is a slight sound make when tapping the bottle with a pen to reinforce that the bottle is in fact made of glass.
Holding the small glass jar in one hand, it is clear that the bottle and what is contained inside, does not weigh very much. Visually the bottle appears to only contain, at most, 200 to 500 grams or so of pepper.
While still looking sort of like a medical bottle, the bottle also reminds me of similar plastic spice jars/containers that I usually have at home. I remember that I don’t have any now as I am still relocating into my new digs in one of the “Mature” student residences on campus, and lucky me, the first week I moved in they decided to renovate my kitchen.
This exercise reminded me that I need to buy some pepper or help myself to a couple more handfuls of pepper packets the next time I get a burger at McPuke.
As in my view, my object was not very exciting or stimulating, I had some difficulty in taking my partner through the sensory experience I had using the object or walking him through the experience. Jotting my thoughts down as I examined the object and using them as a guide, helped somewhat, but mostly I was just happy to get to play with a toy that didn’t suck and found myself playing with and examining my partners toy and realizing that if you smacked someone across the back of the head, with the wooden dog toy, that you probably could do some damage–making me wonder how safe the toy might be for kids.
Writing about my own experiences was difficult enough, as while I used all 5 of the senses we all know so well, and also talking about the weight of the object–I wasn’t really “stimulated” by the object I was asked to examine.
So I sensed apprehension in describing my object to another person, as I did not want them to experience/sense boredom (including my own which I was trying hard to hide), and as best as I could I used my sense of humor to put myself and my partner at ease in walking them though the experiential-participatory journey.
All in all, I enjoyed the exercise and if I can find a spare moment in my crazy schedule, will endeavor to skim a few of my classmates blogs to read about their own experiences with their objects.
Michael Rice, AP-ANTH-3560 Anthropology of the Senses.
It is commonly understood in North American society that there are 5 senses, and only 5 senses and that these are: touch, taste, sight, hearing, and smell. In Synott 1993, we are presented with numerous theories on the senses, and Tardiff for example believes that there are only two types of people eye people and ear people, in other words, visual learners and auditory learners.
Indeed, Plato (arguably the greatest philosopher who has ever lived) believed that sight was the sense that leads to God and truth. “The sight in my opinion is the source of greatest benefit for us, for had we never seen the stars and the sun and the heaven, none of the words we have spoken about the universe would ever have been uttered […]” (Timaneus 47; 1963: 1174-75).
The Ancient Greeks fully embraced the Sensorium and were some of the first philosophical thinkers to think that enlightenment could only be attained by utilizing all of the senses, and “Parmenides, it seems, was the first to make the momentous decision between the senses and reason, he reported that the goddess warned him not to trust the senses but to judge by reason” (Guthrie, 1965:25).
Aristotle not only discussed all five of the senses, but he ranked them as well, with sight, hearing and smell being seen as being more human/superior. Taste and touch, by contrast, were seen as animal like and inferior. “Now sight is superior to touch in purity, and hearing and smell to taste” (Nicomachean Ethics 1176; 1984: 1858).
Rene Descartes also favored sight as he began his Diopic by stating that “The entire conduct of our lives depends on our senses, among which that of sight being the most universal and most noble, there is no doubt that inventions which serve to augment its power are the most useful which could exist.”
Synott concludes by stating “We all live in very different sensory worlds …” and this assessment seems accurate cross-culturally as different cultures put different emphasis on the senses, and indeed people with various sensory disabilities often compensate for one disability by utilizing their other senses more fully than people who possess all 5 senses, so that the blind tend to hear things that others do not, and by using touch they can read Braille, a skill that most sighted people have great difficulty learning.