Takoyaki party: ethnography and the senses in Japanese conviviality
(Oxford Brookes University)
Paper short abstract:
In this intervention I present a reflection upon informal conviviality in modern Japan as seen by a sensorium-informed ethnography, stressing the importance of the researcher's impressionability and inter-individuality as a means of knowledge.
Paper long abstract:
Focusing on modern commensality in contemporary Japan, the author explores the construction of socialized sensorial moments during the meal. Through a comparison between Adam Chau's reflections on 'sociothermic affect' and David Sutton's contribution on multisensoriality and memory, I suggest a phenomenological take on food anthropology, which considers not only eating habits but the whole multisensory continuum in which they take place. Ethnography of Japanese food and food habits has suffered for a long time an excessive ettention towards the more normative and formal aspects of Japanese food culture, neglecting everyay informal meals, as well as the individual, non-verbalized experience of researchers and interlocutors. Attention to the researcher's sensations and affective responses still depends on individual penchants, and methodological 'technology of perception' in ethnography has yet to come. None the less, these aspects are becoming more and more central in later years. Stressing the importance of the multisensory and intersubjective level of daily practices in order to project individual sensory experience onto the shared social dimension will shed new light on the relation between sensoriality and agency as well as the one between the ethnographer and his or her interlocutors.
Doing ethnography through the body