Noses of London: comparative understanding of the olfaction and pollution of the capital since the 19h century
Amin Hashemi (SOAS)
Paper short abstract:
London often rings air pollution. Comparing the growth of London in size and the dissimilarities of air pollution with the Victorian times provokes a field-practice based anthropological research in understanding the changing dynamics of the olfactory awareness of pollution and the scents.
Paper long abstract:
Olfactory could be taken as a medium of understanding the pollution once taken away from a reduced means of telling the smells. The changing concepts of air pollution have also had subconsciously manipulated such sensory responses. Therefore, studying the smell in the air can deeper elaborate on the olfactory understandings of pollution and freshness. The 19th century London is known with industrialisation that resulted in 'the air pollution' issue. The literature also refers to it with olfactory terminologies. Also, the fragrance industry has also developed more sophisticatedly and gained further popularity. Both of these trends have changed in different ways since then. The 19th century London had significantly more polluting particles in the air. However, this is not just the amount of pollution that matters, but the quality of the pollution and the diversity of the particles. The cultural understanding of the olfaction, its social determinism along with its well-being associations, can further help to investigate the often unconscious purifying, therapeutic, aesthetic and hereditary trajectories of 'being good' in London in terms of smells. It could be done by comparatively reflecting the prospects and the practices of the 19th century London on contemporary times and observing the similarities and differences between these practices in the daily life of people of London. The paper maps the 'invisible' olfactory data along with the cultural and historical data from the field to develop its anthropological investigation of the dynamics of olfactory awareness on the issue of the fresh air.
Adding to the Air