Few ethnographies engage light as material, qualia, culture, expression; yet light-based encounters can be fundamental to ritual, place, art, science. This panel aims to inspire observations of light as it matters to the people we study, as part of fieldwork, as material culture or skilled practice.
Light has had little attention in anthropology (see Bille and Sørensen (2007) on the discipline's few forays into this area). Yet light so often occupies a fundamental place in ritual, health, mood, memory, and religious experience; it holds a shifting but central place in the creation of art and science. This panel seeks to inspire ethnographic accounts that address light qualia and experience—and the plurality of cultural understanding and expressivity with light. We encourage contributors to consider light as experienced by the participants they study, as an integral aspect of place and fieldwork, as material culture, or as skilled practice. We seek analyses historical or contemporary. This might include legacies of Enlightenment understanding of physics of light (and colour) and inventive measurement; Romanticism's sublime view of sunlight, moonlight, firelight; artificial light and industry; light as aesthetics and technology in art, architecture, design, photography, cinema; light as alchemy, revelation or philosophy; light and dark in language; light and fire festivals; light as sense, texture, surface luminosity and opacity; light as medicine, well-being; light as mastery and deflection; light as force of attraction, a source of wonder and bedazzlement; diurnal and nocturnal light qualia; light and ecology, weather and pollution; luminous landscapes in country or city. Our aim is to bring to together a richer report of anthropological approaches to this topic within an interdisciplinary conversation on light that includes Tim Edensor, Simon Carter, Patricia Fara, Anne Hollander, Frances Guerin, Esther Leslie, Wolfgang Schivelbusch, and Arthur Zajonc.