Tangible Inquiries: A Study of Aroma Materials and Sources in the Built and Botanical Environments in Grasse, France
McBride, Melanie Chandra
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In the humanities, arts and social sciences smell is often framed as a mode of invisible information, independent of observable and tangible sources of odours, or the structural, embodied and ecological contingencies that afford the activity of their engagement or perception. This framing not only serves to reinforce our already ocularcentric sensory order (Howes, 2005a), but also reinforces the visual biases of contemporary communication and information cultures. This dissertation argues that smell, along with many other sensory phenomena, is further abstracted by predominantly neuro- and logo-centric epistemologies that privilege acquired representational knowledges over more directly experiential, corporeal and self- directed ways knowing. Building on preliminary fieldwork in Ontario and France, this site specific and source centric study investigates the selection, exploration and uses of botanical and synthetic aroma sources and materials as multimodal resources in the contexts of cultural mediation, scent-themed interaction and ecologically situated inquiries within the built and botanical environments of the worlds perfumery capital, Grasse, France. This grounded study draws on methods of sensory ethnography, multimodal analysis and my own tangible inquiry to examine the ecological, sociocultural and structural contingencies that afford directly experiential encounters with aroma. This research has implications for Canada's increasingly scent-free, and sensorially anaesthetic, learning environments, which continue to privilege visually-biased, mind-over-matter modes of learning, knowing, and communicating.