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  2. GCSJ seminar series: To smell is to kill: sensate regimes of war and martial power

GCSJ seminar series: To smell is to kill: sensate regimes of war and martial power

Friday, June 24, 2022 - 12:00 to 13:15


Dr Kevin McSorley, Senior Lecturer in Sociology for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at The Open University.


Smell is a sensory mode capable of apprehending potential threat and enmity in ways that are orthogonal to other ways of sensing. Accordingly, the organisation and militarisation of the sense of smell, augmented by various non-human and technological means, occupies a distinctive place in warfighting, underpinning practices from patrol and manhunting to the tracing of improvised explosive devices. These activities supplement and trouble ocularcentric accounts that theorise martial power in terms of an increasingly abstracted co-production of vision and violence in wartime. In this seminar, it is suggested that critical inquiry into war would benefit from a broader theorisation of all its ‘sensate regimes’ right across a sensorium that is itself being continuously transformed through war.

The seminar series is organised by The Open University's Centre for Global Challenges and Social Justice (GCSJ). Established in October 2021, the Centre in the School of Social Sciences and Global Studies provides critical, interdisciplinary insight, and innovative, social justice driven solutions to challenges facing contemporary global societies. The Centre’s ambition is to understand the historical and structural underpinnings of contemporary societies; the systems of oppressions and inequalities they reproduce; and the resistances and struggles they generate.

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