Adding her stimulating and finely framed ethnography to recent work in the anthropology of the senses, Kathryn Geurts investigates the cultural meaning system and resulting sensorium of Anlo-Ewe-speaking people in southeastern Ghana. Geurts discovered that the five-senses model has little relevance in Anlo culture, where balance is a sense, and balancing (in a physical and psychological sense as well as in literal and metaphorical ways) is an essential component of what it means to be human.
Much of perception falls into an Anlo category of seselelame (literally feel-feel-at-flesh-inside), in which what might be considered sensory input, including the Western sixth-sense notion of "intuition," comes from bodily feeling and the interior milieu. The kind of mind-body dichotomy that pervades Western European-Anglo American cultural traditions and philosophical thought is absent. Geurts relates how Anlo society privileges and elaborates what we would call kinesthesia, which most Americans would not even identify as a sense. After this nuanced exploration of an Anlo-Ewe theory of inner states and their way of delineating external experience, readers will never again take for granted the "naturalness" of sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell.
Note on Transliteration and Orthography
Map of Southeastern Ghana
INTRODUCTION. Cultural Construction of Sensoriums and Sensibilities
1. Is There a Sixth Sense?
2. Anlo-Land and Anlo-Ewe People
PART ONE. Conceptualizing Sensory Orientations in Anlo-Land
3. Language and Sensory Orientations
PART TWO. Moral Embodiment and Sensory Socialization
4. Kinesthesia and the Development of Moral Sensibilities
5. Sensory Symbolism in Birth and Infant Care Practices
PART THREE. Person and Identity
6. Toward an Understanding of Anlo Forms of Being-in-the-World
7. Personhood and Ritual Reinforcement of Balance
PART FOUR. Health, Strength, and Sensory Dimensions of Well-Being
8. Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of Protection
9. Well-Being, Strength, and Health in Anlo Worlds
CONCLUSION. Ethnography and the Study of Cultural Difference
10. Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity
Kathryn Linn Geurts is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Hamline University.
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