ASA12: Arts and aesthetics in a globalising world

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, 3rd-6th April 2012


Exploring aesthetic experiences and practices

Location Convention Centre Lecture Hall-II
Date and Start Time 05 April, 2012 at 15:00


Andrew Whitehouse (University of Aberdeen) email
Sara Asu Schroer (University of Aberdeen) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel explores the aesthetics of experience and the activities through which these are created, enhanced and revealed. How are direct engagements with the world idealised and how does this influence the meaning and affects of experience?

Long Abstract

When humans encounter the world their experience is often guided and understood ethically and in terms of ideals of what that encounter should be like. How should they act? What sort of effects, or indeed affects, should emerge? What should their environment be like? In short, these experiences are aesthetic. In this panel we aim to explore the aesthetics of experience, of how people idealise their direct engagement with the world and how this influences the meaning and affectiveness of experience. We focus particularly on the relations between activities, whether mundane or skilled, and the creation, enhancement and revelation of the aesthetic qualities of experience. How do the intentions of people to conduct particular activities or to exercise certain skills influence what they hope for in their encounters with the world? For example, how do practices such as farming, tourism or hunting guide the perception, appreciation, meaning or morality of a landscape? In taking this focus we explicitly reject an aesthetics that is only concerned with the disinterested appreciation of form and of 'aesthetic objects'. Instead we encourage papers that delight in entangled, multi-sensory and affective encounters and that wish to explore how such experiences are desired, judged, remembered and made meaningful. Such encounters could be with or involve landscape, non-humans, art, music, sport or other skilled practices. They might be everyday encounters or quite exceptional. We invite work across a range of disciplines in addition to anthropology, including geography, history, ethnomusicology and philosophy.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


'Flights like poetry': Exploring aesthetic experiences in the practice of hunting with birds of prey.

Author: Sara Asu Schroer (University of Aberdeen)  email

Short Abstract

In falconry the hunting process in general and the flights of the birds in particular are highly appreciated and create moments of aesthetic intensity. This paper explores aesthetic experiences of falconry practitioners through focussing on the creative and performative aspects of the practice.

Long Abstract

In my research I am looking at falconry, a hunting method in which the abilities of birds of prey are on centre stage. These are seen to be superior to those of the human being who becomes - if skilful enough - an assisting hunting companion. During a hunting day the practitioners intuitively use skills to anticipate movements and rhythms of quarry as well as their falconry birds. This multi-sensory involvement in the hunting process in general and the flights of the birds in particular are highly appreciated and create moments of aesthetic intensity.

It is this aesthetic experience of hunting with birds of prey that I would like to explore in this paper. Here I adopt an approach to thinking about aesthetic experience as intrinsically situated and relational. The appreciation of a 'good hawking day' or a 'dramatic flight' of a peregrine falcon cannot be understood when conceptualising 'beauty' or 'ugliness' as inherent properties of objects that can be understood by a disinterested onlooker or by an objectified set of rules of judgement. Aesthetic appreciation, as I understand it, rather encourages a participatory engagement of the perceiver and emerges out of a resonance between perceiver and the perceived. Furthermore aesthetic experience is more than personal or subjective, but is learned, highly communicative and social. Through focussing on the creative and performative dimensions of the falconry practice I will explore how the shared immersion in an aesthetic experience is a central element of creating as well as re-creating a sense of community and belonging.

The river echoes with laughter: exploring Matses children's aesthetic experiences in Peruvian Amazonia

Author: Camilla Morelli (University of Bristol)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores Matses children’s multi-sensorial, emotional and affective engagements with the river environment in Amazonia. By looking at their daily encounters with the river, it emphasises the aesthetics of children’s experiences and how these are enhanced through shared activities of play.

Long Abstract

This paper considers Matses children of Peruvian Amazonia and their ways of engaging with the river environment. It explores how children directly experience the water through daily practices and in so doing develop a sense of themselves and the world. Experience, coming from ex- (out of) and perior (to test, to attempt), is here emphasised as a process of trying out the possibilities of acting, interacting and being in the world with others. Accordingly, I address the aesthetics of experience in relation to the dynamic process of testing out themselves and the environment through which children establish how their daily encounters with the world can and should be. I specifically consider children's playing—racing canoes, diving, swimming, paddling, and so forth— as a multi-sensorial, highly emotional way of developing affective relationships with each other and the river. Here aesthetic experiences are emphasised in relation to sensuous perception, bodily engagement and affective involvement, and thereby reach into realms of feeling and perceiving that cannot be easily put into words. Therefore, I use short films and photographs taken by the children so as to better explore how young Matses engage affectively with the river and select this as a favourite space of interaction. By evoking children's laughing, shouting, joking and bantering, which echo at a distance when they act in the river, I suggest how playing enhances an aesthetic engagement with water through which children make sense of their encounters and possibilities in the world.

A Retro Affair: silver emulsion in the age of digital

Author: Anuradha Chandra  email

Short Abstract

This paper locates the special experiences inherent in the fast disappearing world of emulsion cinema with its essentially organic engagement with the world and its chimerical image-making; a world highlighted by its inaccessibility to the superhighway of digital cinema.

Long Abstract

With this paper I am interested in opening up the possibilities of the world of silver emulsion films. My relationship to the medium could perhaps be understood as a 'retro affair'; a certain romanticization of that which is now 'endangered' and hence belongs to another time and is seen as 'rare'. But it is undeniable that working with film emulsion offers an engagement with the elemental magic of cinema that is all but lost in the electronic world of digital cinema.

Digital tape or hard drives of necessity must be factory made and must be run on more factory made items. That the world of 'hand-made' is possible when working with 'film' is a curiously liberating phenomenon and one perhaps not thought about enough till the current onslaught of digital technology in the world of photography and cinema.

In our post-digital world the world of emulsion films is become analogous to the experience of 'cooking', where one may begin with raw ingredients and depending on one's touch may create a completely different 'dish', (and could be anything from scrumptious to inedible!). Here the raw ingredients could refer to anything from making one's emulsion, camera as well as projector. The parallel of such a cinema with that of 'cooking' & 'eating' lies in its parallels of preparation, ritual, performance and communal nature.

Further, the experiential nature of emulsion-based cinema in a digital era brings an aesthetics of cinema that lends itself to a viewership located in a bodily-based affective engagement.

Narrating Familiarity: Frederick Growse and the Architectural Experience of Colonial Bulandshahr: 1878-1886.

Author: Venugopal Maddipati (CSDS)  email

Short Abstract

I consider how F.S. Growse, the collector of Bulandshahr (1878-1884), recounted the depth of his experiences by emphasizing his knowledge of the architectural particulars of a town square. I compare Growse's texts with the accompanying photographs, and explore an aesthetics of translation.

Long Abstract

For district collectors in British colonial India in the latter part of the nineteenth century, experience, in so far as the word denoted the knowledge one gains of a place over time, was hard to come by. After all, the short duration of the collectors' administerial tenures, did not permit them to invest in acquiring knowledge about the district. The experience necessary to govern, according to the collector of Bulandshahr, Frederick Salmon Growse, could scarcely be gained when the administrator was expected to "forgo all personal predilections and local attachments… so that he may be moved at a moment's notice from one environment to another." In my paper, I will consider how Growse sought to promote, against the grain of his own transfer from Bulandshahr in 1884, the depth of his experiences in that district. In his memoir, Growse showcased his own familiarity with Bulandshahr by recounting his attempts at architecturally "improving" a town square within it. More significantly, Growse provided photographs of that town square in his memoir, so as to enhance his own textual description of his familiarity with Bulandshahr. How, then, did photographs come to serve as adequate representations of textual descriptions in the memoir? Moreover, how can a text represent familiarity? In my paper I explore Growse's aesthetics of translation, in which the untranslatable, that is, familiarity, is rendered commensurable with textual representations and images. Indeed Growse's familiarity with Bulandshahr, as I will suggest, only exists in translation.

Home and University: The Aesthetics of Making Two Ends Meet

Author: Shabnam Khan (National College of Arts)  email

Short Abstract

Taking my cues from the types of ideal Muslim womanhood, I examine the aesthetics--and the unaesthetics--of the experiences that educated middleclass Pakistani women encounter as they mediate the competing cultural demands of the traditional-Muslim home and the secular-modern university.

Long Abstract

In the context of my earlier study on the types of ideal Muslim womanhood, I show that university-educated middle-class Pakistani women encounter a range of competing cultural claims from the traditional-Muslim home and the modern-secular university. They have little choice but to mediate the rigid enunciations of the two different codes. Their personal biographies, which are connected both to their families and to institutions of learning, involve myriads of organized efforts to work on the self, which bind them in the bonds of affection and spiritual self-significance. Nonetheless, this set of conflicting cultural demands makes unexpected claims on their personhoods. The notion of being academically empowered carries an aura of being in control, and with it the responsibility to exercise that control in developing their own interests and growth as well as those of the people around them. Using psycho-cultural constructs of adult development and wellbeing, I re-examine in this paper women's self-stories about the cultural paradoxes to know how their experiences are either aesthetically wholesome, or unaesthetically squalid, based on how these empowered women do or do not take responsibility for, and remain in control of, the tensions that arise as they meet the virtually mandatory twin dictates of the two codes. In the process, I attempt to grasp the aesthetics of the lure that how they know themselves, and more importantly how they want themselves to be known, as educated women.

Loudly sing, cuckoo! Bird song, resonance and an aesthetics of seasonality

Author: Andrew Whitehouse (University of Aberdeen)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the relations between seasonality and bird song, primarily within a British context. More broadly it is an investigation of how seasons and times are sensed and experienced, and how people idealise and aestheticise these experiences.

Long Abstract

This paper explores the relations between seasonality and bird song, primarily within a British context but with comparative discussion from elsewhere. More broadly it is an investigation of how seasons and times are sensed and experienced, and how people idealise and aestheticise these experiences. It forms part of a larger concern with how landscape is experienced through relations with animals, in this case how that experience is focussed and made meaningful through attending to bird sounds.

Research during the Listening to Birds project garnered an array of stories and accounts of how people experienced the sounds of birds. Many of these narratives made associations between sounds, seasons and times. Seasons were, for example, often 'brought' by the sound of a particular bird. Respondents also described a desire for their own activities to resonate with the singing of birds. From these narratives certain aesthetic ideas emerge about how seasons and times should be experienced, as well as questions about what seasons and times of the day really are and whether the increasing dissonance between human activities and those of birds is a cause for alarm. These questions can be linked to wider environmentalist concerns with a 'silent spring' and the loss of seasonal heralds such as the cuckoo.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.