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Workshop: "Aesthetics and Ethics of Olfactory Experience"

A Philosophical Workshop on the Aesthetics and Ethics of Olfactory Experience

 Date:  29th June 2019, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Ort:  Munich Centre for Ethics (MKE)

Scents, from coffee in the morning to a strident perfume in the tram to lovers’ funk, pervades life, but it is rarely an object of focus in philosophy or theatre. A new stage work by Sandra Chatterjee and Amahl Khouri, no smell in outer space, takes scent as its guiding principle. This work – which meets at the crossroads of choreography and documentary theater – is about the poetics of smell. What is the unexpected, hidden nature of scent, its meaning and the stories it tells? Chatterjee and Khouri’s show will uncover smells and fragrances on several levels: their affective qualities and connection to emotion, their ability to create separation or connection in everyday life (i.e., separating or dividing us along lines of class, gender, spiritual or cultural practice, or race), and traditions of fragrance production and scent-making. This workshop will elaborate on the themes and complement their exploration on stage.
In the workshop, we will discuss a fine selection of recent academic papers on the philosophy, psychology and politics of olfactory perception, and have an open discussion of issues arising therefrom. The texts will nudge the focus to a few areas in particular:

  • The nature of olfactory perception. How is it analogous to visual and auditory perception (if it is)? What agency, if any, do we have regarding what we smell?
  • How smell affects our emotions. How is it that smell can ‘stop us in our tracks’ with its power to evoke feelings and memories?
  • The communities and politics of scent. How smells can identify people and their lifestyles (jobs, hobbies, even their cuisine), and how this awareness can be abused: for instance, through advertising or bigoted stereotyping, especially with regard to class, gender and race.
  • Scents as objects of aesthetic contemplation and admiration. Can there be olfactory art, as for instance in perfumery? And how does scent factor into other arts, in particular haute cuisine and, especially, theatre?


It will be run by Dr André Grahle, who is a lecturer in philosophy at LMU, and Dr James Camien McGuiggan, who is an aesthetician and contributor to the Journal of Music, Dublin. Amahl Khouri is a queer transgender Jordanian-German documentary playwright and theatermaker based in Berlin, who is published in several U.S. journals and anthologies. Dr Sandra Chatterjee is an independent choreographer and Dance and Performance Studies scholar affiliated with the University of Salzburg (postdoc) and Rutgers University, New Jersey (lecturer).


Workshop attendance is free but limited. In order to register, please email andre.grahle@lmu.de. A programme and reading list will be circulated in advance.


The actual performance of no smell in outer space will be premiered on October 4th 2019 at HochX Theater und Live Art, Munich. Further performances will take place on October 5th and 6th. Tickets can be acquired through the theatre directly.


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