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David Howes

Professor, Sociology and Anthropology

David Howes

David Howes is a Canadian anthropologist and legal scholar. He is a Full Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Co-Director of the Centre for Sensory Studies at Concordia University, and (since 2012) an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Law at McGill University.

Howes is best known as a pioneer of the anthropology of the senses and theorist of the interdisciplinary field of sensory studies. He has authored, co-athored or edited 14 books, ranging from The Varieties of Sensory Experience (1991) to Sensorial Investigations (2023). He has published numerous journal articles in such fields as medical anthropology, psychology of perception, sensory museology, material culture, and cross-cultural aesthetics as well as Canadian and US constitutional law, legal pluralism and cross-cultural jurisprudence.

Howes co-founded the journal The Senses and Society (with Michael Bull, Paul Gilroy and Doug Kahn) in 2006, and has served as the general editor of the Sensory Formations book series (2003–2009) and the new Sensory Studies book series from Routledge (2015– ).

Howes has conducted field research on the social and cultural life of the senses in Papua New Guinea, Northwestern Argentina, and the Southwestern United States. He recently wrapped up a project on “Law and the Regulation of the Senses” and is currently directing a project called “Explorations in Sensory Design.”

Howes is a past holder of the Chaire Jacques Leclercq at the Université Catholique Louvain (2018) and was awarded the title of Distinguished Research Professor by Concordia University in 2021.

Intellectual Biography

Video Biography

Research Interests

Sensory Anthropology, Medical Anthropology, Legal Anthropology, Constitutional Studies, Popular Culture, Culture and Consumption, Aesthetics and Atmospheres, Art and Design.

Teaching activities

  • Law and Society
  • Culture and Commerce
  • Art, Aesthetics and Anthropology
  • New Directions in Anthropological Research

Research activities

Select Recent and Ongoing Research Projects (2018-2023)

“Sensing Differently.” Insight Development Grant (IDG), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Principal Investigator: Florian Grond. Co-investigators: David Howes, Matt Unger and Melissa Park (McGill), 2023-2025.

“Probing XR's Futures:Design Fiction, Bodily Experience and Critical Inquiry,” Swiss National Science Foundation. Principal Investigator: Chris Salter (Zurich University of the Arts & Concordia University). Co-investigators: Sabine Himmelsbach (HeK), David Howes (Concordia), Lorenza Mondada (University of Basel), Pilar Orero (Autonomous University of Barcelona), Andreas Uebelbacher (Access for All, Spain), 2023-2027

"Canadian Comparative Law: An Inquiry into the Exchanges between the Civil Law and Common Law in the Supreme Court of Canada. ” Canadian Bar Association - Law for the Future Fund. Principal Investigator: David Howes. Co-investigators: Mark Antaki (Law, McGill), Rosalie Jukier (Law, McGill), Catherine Valcke (Law, Toronto), Alexandra Popovici (Law, Sherbrooke), 2022-2023

“Explorations in Sensory Design.” Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada [SSHRC] Insight grant. Co-investigators: Constance Classen, Carmela Cucuzzella, Arseli Dokumaci, Bianca Grohmann, Aaron Johnson, Jordan LeBel, 2020-2025

“Dynamic Light.” Fonds de Recherche du Québec–Société et Culture [FRQSC]. Principal Investigator: Chris Salter (Design Arts). Co-investigators: David Howes, Marcello Wanderley (Music, McGill) and 2 others, 2018-2020



David Howes, Sensorial Investigations: A History of theSenses in Anthropology, Psychology, and Law. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2023.

David Howes, The Sensory Studies Manifesto: Tracking the Sensorial Revolution in the Arts and Human Sciences. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2022.

David Howes (ed.), Senses and Sensation: Critical and Primary Sources. 4 volumes. Abingdon: Routledge, 2018

David Howes (ed.) A Cultural History of the Senses in the Modern Age, 1920-2000. London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2014, 2018

David Howes & Constance Classen, Ways of Sensing: Understanding the Senses in Society, London and New York: Routledge, 2014

Davd Howes (ed.), The Sixth Sense Reader, Abingdon: Routledge, 2009

David Howes (ed.), Empire of the Senses: The Sensual Culture Reader. Abingdon: Routledge, 2005 

David Howes, Sensual Relations: Engaging the Senses in Culture and Social Theory, Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2003

David Howes, ed., Cross-Cultural Consumption: Global Markets, Local Realities, London and New York: Routledge, 1996

Constance Classen, David Howes & Anthony Synnott, Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell, London and New York: Routledge, 1994.


Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor, 1996 (Portuguese trans.)
Tokyo: Chikuma-Shobo, 1997 (Japanese trans.)
Seoul: Hyunsil Cultural Studies, 2002 (Korean trans.)
Athens: Plethron, 2006 (Greek trans.)

David Howes (ed.), TheVarieties of Sensory Experience: A Sourcebook in the Anthropology of the Senses. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.

Thematic Issues of Journals

Veronique Dassié, Marie-Luce Gélard & David Howes, dirs., Habiter le monde: materialités, art, sensorialités. 44(1) Anthropologie et Sociétés, 2020

David Howes, ed. Troubling Law’s Sensorium: Explorations in Sensational Jurisprudence. 34(2) Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 2019

David Howes (ed.), Sensory Museology, 9(3) The Senses and Society, 2014

Devon Hinton, David Howes and Laurence Kirmayer  (eds.), Medical Anthropology of Sensations, 45(2) Transcultural Psychiatry, 2008

David Howes & Jean-Sébastien Marcoux (dirs.), La culture sensible, 30(3) Anthropologie et Sociétés, 2006

David Howes (ed.) Cross-Cultural Jurisprudence/La jurisprudence transculturelle, 20(1) The Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 2005

David Howes (ed.), Law and Popular Culture, 10(2) The Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 1995

David Howes (dir.), Frontières culturelles et marchandises, 18(3) Anthropologie et Sociétés, 1994

David Howes (dir.), Les cinq sens, 14(2) Anthropologie et Sociétés, 1990 

Select Book Chapters and Journal Articles (2019-2023)

Alexandre Saunier and David Howes, "Encountering Spiking Neural Networks," Visual Anthropology Review (1 November 2023 - early view)

Interiorizing the Senses. In John Potvin et al. (eds.) The Senses in Interior Design. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

David Howes and Simcha Walfish, "Litigating the Carceral Soundscape” (2023) Osgoode Hall Law Journal 60(1): 175-219

"Quali(a)tative Methods: Sense-Based Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities" (2022) Qualitative Sociology Review 18(4): 18-37 

"In Defense of Materiality: Attending to the Sensori-Social Life of Things" (2022) Journal of Material Culture 27(3): 313-35

"The Misperception of the Environment; A Critical Evaluation of the Work of Tim Ingold & an Alternative Guide to the Use of the Senses in Anthropological Theory" (2022) Anthropological Theory 22(4): 443-66

"Rethinking congenital synaesthesia" Tangible Territory 1(3), 2021

Charles Spence, Fabiana Carvalho and David Howes.
“Metallic: A Bivalent, Ambimodal Material Property” (2021) I-Perception 

The Sensory Revolution Comes of Age," Cambridge Journal of Anthropology (2021) 39(2) : 128-37  

« Quand la recherché qualitative rencontre l’ethnographie sensorielle » (2020) Recherches Qualitatives – Hors-série « Les Actes » – 25: 1-7. Sensorialité, émotion et esthétique en recherché qualitative (Linda Rouleau & Sylvie Grosjean, dirs.) 

«Next-Generation Sensory Anthropology »  in Sisa Calapi et al., eds.  Sensibles ethnographies. Decalages sensoriels et attentionnels dans la recherche anthropologique, Marseilles: Éditions Petra, 2020

“Whole-Body Sensing: Encountering the Forest with Henry David Thoreau.”
Sympoïétiques: Les Rencontres interdisciplinaires d'Hexagram, Édition 2020

Erin Lynch, David Howes and Martin French, “A Touch of Luck and a ‘Real Taste of Vegas’: A Sensory Ethnography of the Montreal Casino” (2020) The Senses and Society 15(2): 192-215

Veronique Dassié, Marie-Luce Gélard & David Howes, “Introduction: Habiter le monde.” (2020) Anthropologie et Sociétés 44(1): 1-16

« Sentir le monde: Analyse critique, esthétique et juridique de la construction matérielle du sensorium moderne. » (2020) Anthropologie et Sociétés 44(1)

“Digging Up the Sensorium: On the Sensory Revolution in Archaeology” in Robin Skeates and Jo Day, eds., The Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology, 21-34. London: Routledge, 2020.

Marie-Josée Blanchard and David Howes, “Les sens assoupis : la vie sociale et sensorielle des artefacts dans l’espace muséal » (2019) Anthropologica 61(2) : 322-33

“Prologue: Introduction to Sensori-Legal Studies” (2019) The Canadian Journal of Law and Society 34(2): 173-90.

“Multisensory Anthropology.” (2019) Annual Review of Anthropology 48: 17-28.


Select Conference Presentations & Invited Talks (2017-2021)

"Sensorial Investigations, "The Senses: Present Issues, Past Perspectives" (keynote), Monte Verita, Switzerland, April 2023

"Bringing the Senses to Academia and the Academy to Its Senses" (via zoom), Senses and Sensations Research Group seminar series, University of Bristol, UK, March 2023

"Sensing Colour" (keynote), The Chromotope Summer School, Florence, Italy, September 2022

“TheRehabilitation of Olfaction: Cultural and Cognitive Dimensions of Perfumery” (keynote,via zoom). II Jornadas Internacionales de Historia y Culture del Perfume, Universidad Complutense Madrid, December 2021

“Follow your Nose: 30 Years of Researching Smell” (via zoom), Odeuropa, Amsterdam, May 2021

“An Archeology of Aesthetic Perception” (via zoom), Journée d’éudes Saviors sensibles, ENSAD Lab, Paris, April 2021

“Sense Experience” (via zoom), On Experience, TECHNE Conference, Brunel University, London, January 2021 

“The Barbican Totem: Lighting up the brain, zoning in on synapses, redistributing sensation" (via zoom), ISEA 2020, October 2020.

“Multisensory Anthropology” (via zoom), Embodied Underground Spring Seminar series, University of California, Berkeley, May 2020  

“Sensory Anthropology and the Study of Atmospheres,” CRESSON/University of Grenoble, Grenoble, January 2020

“Multisensory Anthropology: Prospects and Impediments,” Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Oxford University, November 2019

« L’Enculturation des sens » (keynote). Association pour la recherche qualitative, Association canadienne-française pour l’avancement des sciences (Acfas). Gatineau/Outaouais. May 2019

“How Capitalism Came to Its Senses – and Yours: The Invention of Sensory Marketing,” Harvard Business School, Cambridge, MA, June 2017

Research Sampler, 2000-2010

The Aesthetics of Mixing the Senses

Libidinal and Political Economies of the Senses. From Sensual Relations: Engaging the senses in Culture and Social Theory 

Introduction a la Culture Sensible (with Jean-Sebastien Marcoux) Introduction to Anthropologie et Societes special issue

Culture in the Domain of Law. Introduction to Special Issue of The Canadian Journal of Law and Society on Cross-Cultural Jurisprudence

Architecture of the Senses. Contribution to Sense of the City exhibition catalogue.

The Sensescape of the Museum. (with Constance Classen) Contribution to Sensible Objects

Charting the Sensorial Revolution. From the first issue of The Senses and Society

The Senses Collected. From the Introduction to Empire of the Senses

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