Cultural Sensorium

An Indigenous Ethnography of the Senses

dome exhibition experience

In direct response to the national and global focus on safeguarding intangible Indigenous World Heritage, this project proposes an original ethnography and a dynamic public platform for the communication of culture as living heritage. It develops a new approach to under-researched and largely invisible aspects of knowledge and tradition by combining sensory ethnography with pioneering advancements in digital culture. The project develops the emerging field of the anthropology of the senses, delivers new research for cultural maintenance, and provides innovation in technological capacities for sustaining Indigenous futures.

The project has two aims:

(1) To model intangible sensory heritage in Indigenous cultures conceptually (ethnographic and aesthetic), historically (the ethnographic archive) and practically (identifying, documenting and reproducing sensory-based data).

(2) To develop innovative modes of engaging sensory heritage and activating audiences in the understanding and promotion of Indigenous cultural knowledge.

In pursuing a vanguard application of the new field of Indigenous sensory ethnography, this project is at the forefront of innovation in immersive heritage research and development. The project will be the first to model not only a comprehensive framework of Indigenous sense perception, but the means to convey sensory knowledge directly. A new model for intangible sensory heritage will be established and evaluated for the first time. By premiering a cutting-edge multimodal sensory environment, the project represents real advancements towards the 2003 UNESCO mandate on resourcing intangible Indigenous heritage for the future. As such, the project contributes directly to Australian Indigenous linguistic and cultural revival and survival, and actively redresses public affective understanding through the creation of new kinds of engaged and participatory encounters with Indigenous ‘ways of sensing’.

Funded by the Australian Research Council.

Principal Investigator:
Dr. Jennifer Biddle, University of New South Wales, Australia

Prof. Sarah Kenderdine, EPFL, Switzerland

Partner Investigators:
Prof. David Howes, Concordia University, Canada
Prof. Christopher Salter, Concordia University, Canada