Welcome to Activism Through the Senses!!

We are very excited you are here, welcome in!

We are a group of students from the MA Communication for Development from Malmö University. In this blog we want to use the open space to question, analyze, interrogate, wonder and explore activism and New Media. We want to use ‘the senses’ as our lens through which we consider campaigns and initiatives that use New Media to challenge society as we know it.

The senses you say?

Yep, sure thing. Now, the senses as you probably know are traditionally:

  • Sight
  • Touch
  • Taste
  • Hearing
  • Smell

However, we decided to include one more: spatial awareness.


We simply wanted to be a bit unconventional. And vaguely make a point or two, here they go:

The senses are socially constructed, a learnt skill (Grasseni, 2007) and given their experimental dimension, it is very difficult to define and distinguish what is, for instance, a ‘visual’ experience (Ingold, 2000).

It is by using memory, diverse sensory perceptions and learnt culture that we know how to interpret what is, for instance, being looked at. It is when consciously reflecting on an experience or event that we make sense of it.

The senses are a physical act but also a cultural event (Claasen, 1997). So, the way we see, hear, touch, taste and smell are all impregnated with cultural values (Rice, 2005; Classen, 1997). “The senses are mediators of social values rather than simply mechanistic receptors of information” (Rice, 2005, p.200).

Another interesting Fact

The West is an ‘occularcentric’ society (Classen, 1997; Rice, 2005; Sparkes, 2009) where we have a “pronounced Eurocentric and gendered visual bias in ‘Western’ cultures” (p.24). Within scientific knowledge “[s]eeing’ came to be a metaphor for ‘knowing’” (Rice, 2005, p.200). In this sense we can use the senses to question knowledge production and science as a whole!

What have the senses got to do with activism and New Media?

The senses are part of everything we do; how we relate and behave in society. Yet. they are very overlooked.

Thus, we would like to dive deep into them and consider how they bring cultural values in instances of activism and New Media. Video, podcasts and music.. they are designed for the senses – to appeal to the viewer/listener. For instance, take a video from a campaign dealing with a specific topic, how does it trigger the senses? Does it? With what aim? What message is it giving us about the topic? What cultural values come along with the sensory input?

Here are a few ideas of topics we relate to the senses:

  • Memory and identity
  • Gender and body image
  • Sexuality and diverse abilities
  • Diverse abilities and accessibility
  • Food and the environment
  • Uprisings and the abled, gendered body
  • Violence and the body
  • The senses and knowledge production

It’s a tough, slippery and exciting topic, it requires creativity and attention.

We start next week.

You can also find us on social media: Instagram, Twitter, SoundCloud and YouTube.

Ready for this sensory experience?



Classen, C. (1997). Foundations for an anthropology of the senses. International Social Science Journal, 49(153), 401-412. Retrieved from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1468-5914.00063/abstract http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468- 2451.1997.tb00032.x/abstract

Grasseni, C. (Ed.). (2007). Skilled visions: Between apprenticeship and standards (Vol. 6). Berghahn Books. Retrieved from: http://books.google.nl/books?hl=en&lr=&id=FXJ0Mljw2jcC&oi=fnd&pg= PR7&dq=cristina+grasseni&ots=eus00hWOtI&sig=moVvE2ObLOi9SUdrK dg7Sr4zzJk#v=onepage&q=cristina%20grasseni&f=false

Ingold, T. (2000). The perception of the environment: essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill. London: Routeledge

Rice, T. (2005). Book Review: Getting a Sense of Listening. Critique of Anthropology, 25(2), 199-206. Retrieved from: http://coa.sagepub.com.proxy.uba.uva.nl:2048/content/25/2/199

Sparkes, A. C. (2009). Ethnography and the senses: Challenges and possibilities. Qualitative research in sport and exercise, 1(1), 21-35. Retrieved from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19398440802567923

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