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Sociology & Anthropology

Culture and Senses: Bodily Ways of Knowing in an African Community

Summary of Book by Kathryn Linn Geurts, 2003
Published by University of California Press (Berkley, United States)

This book is based on ethnographic research with Anlo-Ewe-speaking people in south-eastern Ghana. Geurts argues that the taxonomical five-sense model has little relevance here, proposing the idea of a “sixth sense” that prioritizes “balance.” Geurts defines “sensing” as “bodily ways of gathering information” which are informed by cultural traditions to suggest that sense sensoriums differ from one culture to the next and are premised on local lexicons that encode moral values. Geurts pays close attention to the socialization of children to illustrate her argument claiming that sensoriums shape our experiences of embodiment, our notions of identity and “the person” and the ways we understand health and illness.