Un/making the ‘sensory home’: tastes, smells and sounds during disasters.

Gemma Sou, Ruth Webber

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In this paper, we develop the notion of the ‘sensory home’. We reveal how gustatory, olfactory and sonic experiences shape where and when one feels ‘at home’. We draw on a qualitative, longitudinal methodology to explore how low-income Puerto Ricans experienced domestic tastescapes, smellscapes and soundscapes during the first 12 months after Hurricane Maria in 2017. We first show how the sensory home is made with familiar and routine sensory experiences, and unmade by intrusive and unfamiliar tastes, smells and sounds. Second, the sensory home is temporally dynamic as it is constituted by processes taking place on multiple scales and by multiple actors – particularly the state and neighbourhood. Thus, un/making the sensory home is inherently political as it is tied to state-citizen power relations – our third contribution. Finally, in disasters people asymmetrically recover not just economically or materially, but as we show, sensorially.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial & Cultural Geography
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2021

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute


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