Sensate Art Histories: Challenges and New Perspectives

Helene Bongers's picture
June 11, 2018
Subject Fields: 
Area Studies, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Fine Arts

Villa Jaffé, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Wallotstr. 10, 14193 Berlin, 11.06.2018



sensate art histories: challenges and new perspectives

A workshop of Connecting Art Histories in the Museum and Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices



The objects of our study encompass amuletic Qur’an manuscripts; intricately carved medieval European ivories; 18th to 19th century East Asian incense burners; the 19th century German literary magazine Pan; and the stone inscriptions of Deccan India’s temple makers. Participants in this transregional workshop have a shared interest in the aesthetic and material practices in which these objects were implicated, and in the multisensory experience of their contemporary receivers. We ask how the lens of the senses complements our understanding of print cultures and religious manuscripts, and we explore the intersensory perception of devotional objects and sacred spaces. On the one hand, we engage the materiality of small objects in close proximity to the body and on the other, the body’s habitation of and circulation within monumental architectural spaces and sweeping landscapes. Whereas art historians have tended to privilege and fetishize the visual, we are interested in exploring sensory orders and sensory intersections within the historical moments of our study. We are concerned with the unique contribution that art history as a discipline with its attention to materiality and objecthood, whether of texts, things, or buildings, can make to sensory studies.


While remaining firmly grounded within the approaches of material studies, we invite exchanges with scholars working on sensory studies from a range of disciplinary perspectives including textual history, religion, literary and cultural studies, anthropology, and museum and curatorial studies. And because we intend to be attentive to the blind spots and challenges of this rapidly growing field, our main aim in this workshop is to both develop and interrogate methodologies. In so doing we hope to find ways of approaching the historical, cultural, and spatial specificity of the sensorium.





09:00 Welcome and Introduction

(Hannah Baader/Subhashini Kaligotla)


10:00 Keynote by Margrit Pernau (Center for the History of Emotions, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin) Feeling the Garden: Sensory Experience between Materiality and Interpretation


11:15 Coffee Break


11:30 Alya Karame

The Qur’an in the Realm of the Senses

Discussants: Claus-Peter Haase (FU Berlin/ Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin) & Stephennie Mulder (University of Texas, Austin)


12:20 Max Koss

Sensing Paper: Print Culture between Pleasure and Scandal in Fin-de-siècle Germany

Discussant: Karsten Lichau (Center for the History of Emotions, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin)


13:10 Lunch Break


14:40 Lucy Jarman

In Contact: A Late Medieval Ivory Scallop and its Uses

Discussant: Laura Otis (Emory University, Atlanta)


15:30 Ning Yao

Decoding the Images: Space, Deity and Incense Burners

Discussant: Birgitta Augustin (Museum of Asian Art, Berlin)


16:20 Coffee Break


16:35 Subhashini Kaligotla

Graphic Sense & the Medieval Indian Temple Maker

Discussant: Kerstin Pahl (Center for the History of Emotions, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin)


17:25 Final Discussion

moderated by Gerhard Wolf (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, Max-Planck-Institut/ Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices, Berlin)


Concept and Organization:

Subhashini Kaligotla, Alya Karame, Max Koss, Lucy Jarman and Ning Yao in cooperation with Hannah Baader.