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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 published 14 books, ranging from The Varieties of Sensory Experience (1991) to The Sensory Studies Manifesto (2022). He has otherwise published numerous articles on material culture, the museum 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 otherwise 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: Explorations in Sensori-Legal Studies” 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.

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 (2012-2022)

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). $34,320. [2022-2023]

“Explorations in Sensory Design.” Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada [SSHRC] Insight grant. $297,000. Co-investigators: Constance Classen, Carmela Cucuzzela, 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 others. [2018-2020]

“The Cultural Sensorium: An Indigenous Ethnography of the Senses.” Australian Research Council [ARC]. Principal Investigator: Jennifer Biddle (University of New South Wales). Co-investigators: David Howes, Chris Salter. [2016-2019]

“Law and the Regulation of the Senses: Explorations in Sensori-Legal Studies.” SSHRC Insight Grant. Principal Investigator: David Howes. Co-investigators: Marc Lafrance (SOAN), Charlene Elliott (Communications, Calgary), Sheryl Hamilton (Law, Carleton), Christiane Wilke (Law, Carleton). [2015-2019]

“Evaluating Methods of Aesthetic Enquiry Across Disciplines.” Leverhulme Trust International Network Grant. Principal Investigator: Dee Reynolds (Manchester). Concordia co-applicants: Constance Classen, Erin Manning. Other co-applicants: Eric Clarke (Oxford), Rupert Cox (Manchester), Helmut Leder (Vienna), Charles Spence (Oxford). [2015-2018]

“Sensory Entanglements: New Cross-Cultural and Cross-Disciplinary Directions in the Creation and Evaluation of Multi-Sensorial Environments,” SSHRC. Principal Investigator: Chris Salter. Co-investigators: David Howes, Marcelo Wanderley, Jennifer Biddle. [2014-2020]

“Haptic Fields.”  FRQSC recherche-création. Principal Investigator: Chris Salter. Co-investigators: David Howes, Marcelo Wanderley. [2014-2017]

“The Hands-On Museum: Transition Periods,” SSHRC. Principal Investigator: Constance Classen. Co-investigator: David Howes [2011-2014]



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

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, Oxford and New York: Berg, 2009

David Howes (ed.), Empire of the Senses: The Sensual Culture Reader.< Oxford and New York: Berg, 2004 

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.), The Varieties 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 (2012-2022)

“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): 313-335  

“The Misperception of the Environment: A Critical Evaluation of the Work of Tim Ingold and an Alternative Guide to the Use of the Senses in Anthropological Theory” (2022) Anthropological Theory 22(4): 443-466 

"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 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 (sous la direction de Linda Rouleau et Sylvie Grosjean) 

«Next-Generation Sensory Anthropology »  in Sisa Calapi, Helma Korzybyska, Marie Mazzella di Bosco, & Pierre Peraldi-Mittelette, eds.  Sensibles ethnographies. Decalages sensoriels et attentionnels dans la recherche anthropologique,  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 Anthropology48: 17-28.

David Howes with the late Clifford Geertz and Roseline Lambert. “Boasian Soundings: An Interrupted History of the Senses (and Poetry) in Anthropology” (2018) Amerikastudien/American Studies 63(4): 473-488 (special issue: Boasian Vistas)

“Embodiment and the Senses” in Michael Bull, ed., The Routledge Companion to Sound Studies, 24-34. London and New York: Routledge, 2018

"Afterword: The Skinscape - Reflections on the Dermalogical Turn," Body and Society 24(1-2), 2018

"Law’s Sensorium: On the Media of Law and the Evidence of the Senses" in  Historical and Cross-Cultural Perspective. In Sheryl Hamilton et al (eds.)  Sensing Law. pp. 53-72. London and New York: Routledge, 2017

"Preface: David Le Breton and the Sociality of Sensation." In David Le Breton, Sensing the World: An Anthropology of the Senses. pp. vii-xi. Abingdon: Routledge, 2017

"Foreword: The Engagement of the Senses." In Nicholas Saunders and Paul Cornish, eds. Modern Conflict and the Senses. pp.xix-xxiii. London and New York: Routledge, 2017

"Music to the Eyes: Intersensoriality, Culture and the Arts." In Barry Truax et al (eds.), Routledge Companion to Sounding Art. London and New York: Routledge, 2016

Sensing Cultures: Cinema, Ethnography and the Senses." In Rupert Cox, Andrew Irving and Christopher Wright, eds., Beyond Text? Sensory Anthropology and Critical Practice. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016

Preface: Accounting for Taste." In Luca Vercelloni. The Invention of Taste: A Cultural Account of Desire, Delight and Disgust in Fashion, Food and Art, vii-xiv. Abingdon: Routledge, 2016

Mediations of Sensation: Designing Performative Sensory Environments." NMC Media-N 11(3) (with Chris Salter), 2015

The Science of Sensory Evaluation: An Ethnographic Critique." In Adam Drazin and Susanne Kuechler, eds., The Social Life of Materials. Abingdon: Routledge, 2015

"Sensation." In S. Brent Plate, ed., Key Terms in Material Religion. Abingdon: Routledge, 2015

The Extended Sensorium: Introduction to the Sensory and Social Thought of François Laplantine." In François Laplantine, The Life of the Senses: Introduction to a Modal Anthropology, trans. Jamie Furniss. pp. vii-xiv. Abingdon: Routledge, 2014.

"« Se sentir chez soi » au musée : tentatives de fusion des sensoriums dans les musées de société." Anthropologie et Sociétés 38(3) : 253-270 (with Marie-Josée Blanchard), 2014

"Introduction: ‘Make It New’–Reforming the Sensory World." In David Howes (ed.), A Cultural History of the Senses in the Modern Age, 1920-2000, Abingdon: Routledge, 2014

"Revisualizing Anthropology through the Lens of The Ethnographer’s Eye." In Ian Heywood and Barry Sandywell, eds., Handbook of Visual Culture. 628-47. Oxford: Berg, 2012

"Hearing Scents, Tasting Sights: Toward a Cross-Cultural Multimodal Theory of Aesthetics." In Francesca Bacci and David Mellon, eds., Art and the Senses, 161-82. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011

"Polysensoriality."  In Fran Mascia-Lees, ed., Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Anthropology of the Body and Embodimen. 435-50. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011

"Vienna: Sensory Capital." In Madalina Diaconu et al (eds.), Senses and the City. An Interdisciplinary Approach to Urban Sensescapes, Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2011

"Worlds of Sense and Sensing the World" (with Tim Ingold), Social Anthropology 19(3):313-31, 2011


Select Conference Presentations & Invited Talks (2015-2022)

“Sensing Colour” (keynote). Translating Colour, The Chromotope Summer School, Florence, September 19-23, 2022

“The Rehabilitation of Olfaction: Cultural and Cognitive Dimensions of Perfumery” (keynote, via zoom). II Jornadas Internacionales de Historia y Culture del Perfume, Universidad Complutense Madrid, December 3, 2021

“James McNeill Whistler: A Sensory Biography of His Work and Life” (keynote, via zoom), Whistler, Nature and Industry Symposium, The Hunterian Museum, Glasgow, November 5, 2021

“Follow your Nose: 30 Years of Researching Smell” (via zoom), Odeuropa, Amsterdam, 26 May 2021

“An Archeology of Aesthetic Perception” (via zoom), Journée d’éudes Saviors sensibles, ENSAD Lab, Paris, 13 April 2021

“Sense Experience” (via zoom), On Experience, TECHNE Student Conference, Brunel University, London, 28 January 2021 

“The Barbican Totem: Lighting up the brain, zoning in on synapses, redistributing sensation.” ISEA 2020, 14 October 2020 (via zoom)

“Multisensory Anthropology.” Embodied Underground Spring Seminar series, University of California, Berkeley, 5 May 2020 (via zoom). 

“Sensory Anthropology and the Study of Atmospheres,” CRESSON/University of Grenoble, Grenoble, 29 January 2020

“Multisensory Anthropology: Prospects and Impediments,” Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Oxford University, 7 November 2019

« L’enculturation des sens » (keynote). Association pour la recherche qualitative, Association canadienne-française pour l’avancement des sciences (Acfas). Gatineau/Outaouais. 27-28 May, 2019

« La vie sociale des sens à travers des cultures » (five part lecture series), Chaire Jacques Leclercq, Université Catholique Louvain, Louvain-La-Neuve, 12-16 March 2018

“What Anthropology Teaches Us About the Brain and Human Perception,” John B. Pierce Laboratory Fall Seminar Series, Yale University, 23 October 2017

“Digging Up the Sensorium: Archeology Branching into Sensory Studies,” Institute of Philosophy/Centre for the Study of the Senses (CenSes), University of London, 8 September 2017

“Nerves and Narratives,” Creative Tastebuds conference, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark,4 September 2017

“How Capitalism Came to Its Senses – and Yours: The Invention of Sensory Marketing,” Harvard Business School, Boston, MA 29June 2017

“Sensory Surrounds,” On Atmospheres: Embodiments of Space, Harvard Graduate Design School, Cambridge, MA. 4-5 February 2016

“Coming to Our Senses: A Report on the Sensory Turn in Curatorial and Media Art Practice,” Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen, 21 December 2015

“The Evidence of the Senses” (keynote), The Senses Lecture Series, 2015-2016 Altman Program, Humanities Center, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, 3 September 2015

“Cultural Exchange as Sensory Exchange: A Sensory Studies Approach to the Encounter of Chinese and Western Civilizations, ”The Senses in Sino-Western Cultural Exchanges in the Early Modern Period, Fudan University, Shanghai,.16-17 May 2015

“The Sensory Interior: Some Other Rooms You May Have Missed,” Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, 26 February 2015

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

Multi-Sensory Marketing in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Part 1: From Synergy to Synaesthesia. From Percepnet

Multi-Sensory Marketing in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Part 2: The Sense of the Senses. From Percepnet

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