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Early Modern Sensory Experiences

EMSE 2024: Early Modern Sensory Subjectivities

6-7 June 2024, University of Oxford

The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH, The University of Oxford) and the Open University invite papers for the annual interdisciplinary Early Modern Sensory Experiences (EMSE) workshop.

Interest in sensory experiences of the past has grown in recent years, with scholars engaging with interdisciplinary approaches in order to enhance their understanding of historical lived experiences. This annual conference explores visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory and/or olfactory experiences across the globe between c.1400 and c.1700.

This year’s conference, ‘Sensory Subjectivities’, welcomes papers that consider sensory experiences as instances or reflections of identity and alterity and which discuss possible methodologies and approaches to this particular subject. Papers may engage with the following questions, amongst others:

  • What role do the senses play in subjectivities, positionality and alterity? 
  • How did sensorial experiences identify and articulate ethnicity, race and gender?
  • How were the senses an important factor in the formation of prejudice as well as in the building of communities? 
  • How did the senses feature in collective as well as individual identity and world-making?

Papers are invited from scholars working in any discipline, including musicology, art history, cultural and/or social history, religious studies, and book history, on any geographic region between c.1400 and c.1700.

While we understand that scholars may naturally place emphasis on a particular sense or source as a reflection of their own disciplinary background, we encourage speakers to work across senses, sources and disciplines.

Speakers are encouraged to present work in progress and/or address methodological challenges faced in their research.

Please send a 150-word abstract along with a short biography on a Word document to Leah Clark ( and Helen Coffey ( by 1 February 2024.

The conference will take place at the University of Oxford, on 6-7 June 2024.

We place emphasis on building a friendly workshop environment, with plenty of time for conversations. We therefore encourage speakers to attend both days to foster that environment.

All speakers will be expected to give their papers in person: unfortunately we are unable to facilitate online presentations. Please note that we will not be able to cover travel or accommodation costs for speakers.

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