April Update (a bit late…)

April just flew by! It was filled with various different and competing projects, including publication editing, manuscript writing and applications… as well as too many hours on the bike. Here is my review of the month and look forward to May (which has already started at a sprint pace).

Writing

I had several writing projects in April and all seemed to move forward in various degrees. I had some reviewer comments to address for a publication chapter, which I started (unfortunately did not finish). I agreed with much of the reviewers assessment and suggestions, which was useful and I am happy with the direction the chapter is going. What caused some problems was the order of the original chapter had to be changed. I had divided the chapter into several sub-sections in the original layout, but merged a couple of sub-sections and had to rewrite most of the transitions and intro to reflect the new order. It is almost (fingers crossed) done and if I can get a day or two to work uninterrupted (unlikely) I should be able to get it off the to-do list.

I worked a bit on the manuscript for Acoustics of Roman Ostiain April, but it was an off and on type work, which always feels slow. I have been focused on one of the later chapters that deal with the urban image of noise in Rome. It is based on my text-mining of spatial and auditory Latin terms in the PHI and the context for descriptions of noise. Much of the work was on the flow of the argument and the order of case studies. It still feels like a work-in-progress and needs some further time to work out the best order through the tangle of literary terms and passages.

Finally, and most recently, I have been writing a project description for an upcoming application. I have a postdoc proposal that I wrote last year, but has not been submitted anywhere yet, although it deals with a different set of evidence and topic than this recent one. This recent project brings in some of my (very) early postgraduate work in religious studies and biblical studies.

When I was in a religious studies/biblical studies department, I always saw my work as being outside the religious or theological realm. I was much more interested in the ways religious groups (mostly Jewish, early Christian and Mithraic groups) had non-religious practices, such as communal dining, adapting non-religious space and collegiagroup formation. It is interesting to return to some of these ideas, but from the other side, emphasising the religious character of everyday routines, movements and urban architecture. The project is interesting (good as it would be a long three years otherwise) and would bring together some diverse bits and pieces of things I have worked on over my long journey through academia. It could even force me to dig up my first MA (and a couple of essays) and integrate it into the overall project. But that is a choice I’ll have to make much further down the road…

Reading

Much of my reading in April was theoretical in nature and pertained to the slow moving work on Lefebvre and other French theorists use of Rome and classics. I read Philosophising the Everyday: Revolutionary Praxis and the Fate of Cultural Theoryby John Roberts, which is a history of philosophy on ‘everyday’ from 1912 to 1975. It was a short book (only 3 chapters), but stays focused on a select group of theorists (Lefebvre and Benjamin being to principle two). What was useful for my own work was the contextualisation of ‘everyday’ within several different social frameworks, from the Russian Revolution to pre-war France and Germany, and post-war France. These contexts were integrated into Lefebvre and Benjamin’s respective approaches to the everyday, as well as conceptual definitions. My critique of the book is mostly stylistic as it was clearly a philosophy text and relied on philosophical jargon with no specific definitions of the terms being used. I find this unhelpful, even for students of philosophy, as it leaves much of the critical weight of the terms hidden in the assumption of reader’s prior knowledge.

I also read (on the last chapter now) Stuart Elden’s Foucault’s Last Decade. The book was the first part of what has become a multi-volume intellectual history of Foucault. Elden maintains an active blog, Progressive Geographies, covering much of his ongoing work on Foucault, Lefebvre and political geography more generally. It is worth checking out his blog as he has a wealth of resources on Foucault, Lefebvre and some really great collections of resources on academic writing habits and tools.

Foucault’s Last Decadeis a fascinating insight into a highly important period in Foucault’s career, although it ends with his passing. The book chronicles the development of the History of Sexualityproject, which includes the majority of work Foucault undertook on antiquity (Greece and Rome). While volume 2 and 3 of the History of Sexualityhave been available for some time, their relationship to Foucault’s lecture courses and other publications is somewhat limited. Elden places the published form of the History of Sexualitywithin the context of an shifting conception of the project from it’s inception in 1974. In particular, Elden draws out the various threads that lead Foucault back to antiquity, rather than stopping at Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries CE. Of particular importance for my own work is Foucault’s focus on the first and second century CE in terms of politics and marriage. The early Empire forms a highpoint in the curve of the ‘culture of the self’ for Foucault (182). Key to some of the work I am slow pulling together is Foucault’s insistence that the early Empire was an ‘organisation of a complex space’, a space of multiple centres of power (184). The multiple centres of power were part of spatial and social networks that were in constant motion. Here, like in Lefebvre, is an early indication of a key insight, which would take several decades to be elaborated within field of Roman studies. I find these fragments, and these couple of pages in The Care of the Selfare the only references to this idea in Foucault, worth further exploration as these French theorists (Lefebvre and Foucault) are more often referenced in terms of theoretical advances, than their interpretations of the ancient world. Foucault’s use of Greece and Rome has received more attention, than Lefebvre, but still from the very start the ‘spatial turn(s)’ drew on Rome as a key source.

Odds and Sods

Along with all of this reading and writing, I trained and completed a 100-mile (called a ‘century’) bike ride in the town where I did my undergraduate degree, Chico, CA. The Wildflower Century is an annual event and I sent the weekend with some friends I have not seen in several years. I had a great time seeing people, taking some needed time off and, of course, riding my bike. It may (or may not) come as a surprise, but I completed the ride in just under 6 hours (5:58.30), which was a personal record for that distance. I had planned on a slightly slower pace, aiming to finish in 7:30 hours, but met two other solo riders at the second rest stop (45 miles in) and we completed the ride together. It was a blast and helpful to have some motivation and drafting help for the second half of the ride. From mile 60 to the end, the route was flat through the orchards and fields surrounding Chico and we maintained a speed of 20-23 mph (getting up to 25 mph briefly). We were mistaken for a car by several other riders due to the wind and buzz of our bikes as we passed; if you have never seen a bike race in person, the main group of riders (called the peleton) are very loud, a combination of the noise of bikes (sounds like an angry bee) and the group cutting through the wind. It was great to get out and ride through the beautiful countryside surrounding Chico and in such a fast time. We earned our post-ride beer and meal! (Just found out, I won a daily picture drawing for one of my shots from the ride!)

I had originally planned to ride two more centuries in the following weekends, but the ride the next weekend was in my current town and I ride the course almost every week. So, I saved the money and did not enter that ride. I will definitely sign up for the Wildflower Century again, as well as other rides in places I want to visit (best to tick several boxes at once…).

May has more reading, writing and riding in store. The Tour of California is next week so, I will take a day to go see the race (if I am able), or at least watch some from a local pub (the best way to enjoy cycling).

February: Writing, Reading & Other Stuff

It has been another busy month of reading, writing and moving, as I have returned to California. Here is the round up of books, writings and future work on the horizon for me as February comes to an end.

Writing

I received some helpful reviewer comments on the Lefebvre article, as well as presenting a version of it last week. Although the article will not be published in the original journal (concern over the right audience by the editors), I am pleased with the response from the reviewers and editors, as well as the direction the article is taking, and got some great suggestions for more appropriate journals from the editor and colleagues. I will continue to develop the ideas and (hopefully) get another manuscript into one of the journals before it falls to far down the priority list.

I finished the chapter on street porticoes in Ostia and will send it off to the editor this week. I had originally planned on covering both the archaeological, architectural and literary development of porticoes in Rome, but that was far to big a task for an edited chapter. In the end, I cut the literary evidence, although I will likely use that work in my book manuscript. The chapter, therefore, is based around a case study of street porticoes in Ostia (size, dimensions, locations) from the perspective of street acoustics. It charts the effect of portico frontages on the sound dissipation in the street carriageway for three central streets in Ostia between 115 CE and 140 CE. I use Lefebvre and Ingold to argue for the interpretation of streets through experience of movement. That is, the experience, in this case acoustic experience, of the street transitions with the addition of porticoes to accommodate potentially higher levels of noise, which were registered in social terms. The architecture of streets of the second century CE was an attempt to deal with the implications of street paving, architectural narrowing (at certain sites) and increasing usage. I then placed the street architecture within the prolonged spatial and mobility history of Rome. Several key points in time saw an increase in porticoes, both free standing enclosed spaces and street porticoes, which relate to developments in wider street architectures and conceptions of movement in Rome.

I cut the discussion of monastic cloisters and enclosed porticoes that I was taking from Lefebvre’s Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment, as I wanted to keep the focus on streets. I will reuse some of that writing in my on-going study of the use of antiquity in Lefebvre’s thought.

Books

I have been reading more theoretical and history of thought type books this month. I am halfway through Martin Jay’s Downcast Eyes: The denigration of vision in twentieth-century French thought. It is a fascinating read and chapters 1-3 cover much of the same time period and thought that Lefebvre analyses in The Production of Space, although with a different focus. The second half of the book gets into the more contemporary scholars and their approaches to what Jay calls ‘ocularcentrism’.

I also read Michel de Certeau’s Culture in the Plural, which has some clear points of contact with Lefebvre’s writings and offers insights into de Certeau’s development of ideas that appear later in The Practice of Everyday Life.

I have acquired a few freebies from the UC Berkeley Environmental Design library free books cart: Christian Norberg-Schulz’s Intentions in Architecture (1962); The Urban Moment: Cosmopolitan Essays on the Late 20th Century City edited by Robert A. Beauregard and Sophie Body-Gendrot (1999); and David Perry (ed.) Building the Public City: The politics, governance, and finance of public infrastructure (1995).

Odds and Sods

My library will begin its trek back to California at the end of this week. I was told it will take 82-102 days so, I have pulled a handful of books I think I will need over the next couple of months. It was hard trying to plan what sort of materials I will need to hand for the next couple months. I am glad that the UC Berkeley libraries are available so, I am not left in the cold (which it is currently very cold back here in London).

However, it did give me a chance to think about what I hope to get done in the coming months: 1) I am hoping to get a complete draft of my book manuscript chapter on street acoustics done; 2) I have a couple of reviews to write; 3) turn around the Lefebvre article and submit a copy; 4) revise a post-doc application that I did not submit (due to the international move), but want to have ready for the future. I think that will keep me more than busy enough.

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you will likely know/see lots of cycling related posts. I am currently starting to get ready for a series (3 in total) of century rides (100 miles or 100km depending on the ride). The rides take place at the end of April/beginning of May and are all in California (Chico, Bay Area, Watsonville). It will give me a chance to see some old friends, enjoy the outside and add a ton of miles to the Ritchey (my road bike). I am looking forward to the rides, but am a bit nervous about the amount of time I will be sitting on the bike (and the resulting saddle sore of 6+ hours on bike). The post-ride dinners for each century are catered by some great breweries, which will help with the recovery…

Toward an Embodied Roman Place (Space): Henri Lefebvre & Roman senses

I presented a paper yesterday, at the Senses of Place conference put on by Sensory Studies in Antiquity at Roehampton Univeristy, London. I was a bit jet-lagged so, my oral presentation was not quite as clear as I would feel it could have been. The presentation was recorded so, when the video is available I will post a link on the blog. The manscript of the presentation is posted below.

Toward an Embodied Roman (Space) Place: Henri Lefebvre’s Interpretation of Roman Senses

Jeffrey D. Veitch

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‘For reasons I am unaware of, I have always preserved a very strong sense of my own body. Stronger than the majority of those I have questioned. It is inspired by a kind of wisdom that can only be called instinctive or organic. My body knows what it wants, what it needs (even in love, although here the causes of the disturbance pile up – which could be said to be alienating). I know which boundaries mustn’t be pushed through work or fatigue, and the stress from eating and drinking. When I exceed these bounds, it’s because something is not right: I want to punish myself, destroy myself. It is to my fortunate bodily makeup that I own my unshakable health and vitality. Neither my lucidity nor my thoughts are foreign to this body; it is my body that reflects, that tries one thing or another, not an ‘I’, a ‘cogito’, a ‘subject’, a cerebrality lodged in my brain. Philosophically, this practical experience is similar to Spinoza’s arguments concerning the unity of space and thought, and the materialist statements found in Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 and Nietzsche’s aphorisms in The Gay Science.

I owe to this attitude not only a kind of solidity through the labyrinth of contradictions but also an absolute resistance to the external causes of destruction and degradation. This is part of physical and mental health. I believe that it is to this that I owe my long-standing interest in space, an interest whose conceptual and theoretical formulation has taken shape very slowly, but cannot be reduced to that formulation. There is also a poetic side to this, and a poetic practice, that attempts to vivify the entire body with all its rhythms and senses (it is not a question of giving in to a nostalgia for nature or of emphasizing the use of one of our senses – sight, for example – or of exalting the sensory organs in general). In almost methodical fashion, although there is no method in the strict sense of the term, what I refer to as ‘poetic practice’ intensifies lived experience by associating it with the perceived world, by accelerating the interactions and interferences of the body and its surroundings: roads and streets, countryside and cityscape, forests and metal, lakes and streams, and stones’ (Lefebvre 2014, pp. 34-5).

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Henri Lefebvre was 72 at the time of writing, or more precisely dictating to his wife at the time, this passage and it comes at the peak of his writing on space, when he is most active in 1973-4. This was the culmination of over a decade of writing on space, urban and rural sociology and everyday life in the transition to modernisms urban totality with six books being written between 1964 and 1974. Pointedly autobiographical, the passage draws together a series of theoretical formulations that are central to what I will argue is Lefebvre’s sensory-spatial theory.

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To label Lefebvre’s spatial theory sensory is a bit at odds with common rereading of Lefebvre, which owes more to David Harvey and Ed Soja than to Lefebvre (see Harvey 1973; Soja 1989, 1996). However, at the core of this personal reflection is a theory of the senses and body in the production of space, or place-making (Yi-Fu Taun’s discussion of ‘place’ implies Lefebvre’s spatial triad, Taun 1979).

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I want to suggest that a rereading of Lefebvre, following this autobiographical passage, indicates the way the senses and body are central to his spatial theory and this theory offers key insights into our interpretation of past environments, whether built, natural or imaginary.

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As an example, or case study place, I will draw on one of Lefebvre’s own favourite examples, Rome. ‘Roman space, though encumbered by objects (as in the Forum), was a productive space’, Lefebvre states in The Production of Space (1991, p. 237). Again and again, Lefebvre draws on the ancient world in the formulation of spatial history in both Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment and The Production of Space, as well as in his other urban writings.

In this paper, I will therefore set out the central pieces for Lefebvre’s spatial-sensory theory, namely 1) the total body, 2) senses as theoreticians and 3) poetic practice drawing on Lefebvre’s own use of Roman space as an examples. At its base level, this is a combined rereading of Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment and The Production of Space, although I will open up Lefebvre’s own theoretical formulations for conversation with some more recent discussions and other theorists.

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Total Body

The total body, in Lefebvre, is made up of the spatial qualities of the body, which indicate the ambiguity of the body as occupying a space and producing a space (Lefebvre, 2014, p. 149). Lefebvre restates this duality as a natural body (physical, material, using gestures and members) and a social body (using language), as well as another duality of energetic processes (accumulation and expenditure of energy) and infrastructural process (receiving and storing information) (2014, p. 149). These two dualities are useful in setting out the place and role of the senses within Lefebvre’s total body, as well as leading to his critique of the readability of space.

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‘Among the Romans, until their long decline, we find a powerful sense of civic involvement that connected individuals to the city. The most important pleasures were experienced within the social framework; in other words, public and private were not yet separated, and the public did not yet have the unpleasant, almost ridiculous, character it has assumed in our society, where the social and socialisation are generally met with disapproval. […]

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‘Take, for example, the Baths of Diocletian in Rome. This enormous space, covering nearly fifty-seven acres, was a small city in the City of Cities, and surrounded by a vast park. Intended to cultivate the body as well as the mind, the Roman baths are one of the most original architectural creations that history has known. A succession of rooms followed one another along an axis, which served as both hallway and vestibule and which led to a gigantic open-air pool more than half an acre in size. This followed by a vaulted hall, also surrounded by pool. Around the large pool were palaestrae, gyms, and massage rooms, together with a variety of sporting and domestic paraphernalia for the patrons (client, visitor, consumer – none of the words are suitable). Once they had warmed their muscles, the patrons crossed a series of rooms, the heat increasing as one progressed, to ultimately reach the caldarium. Even today, the building themselves appear to be characterized by a degree of luxury to which our own cultural institutions and stadiums appear to descend from barbarians and puritans, more ascetic than they are subpar. What can we say about the interior? The pools were a marble lake surrounded by colonnades, covered with mosaics of which the statues were reflected. The rooms contained flowing fountains, colonnades, niches decorated with statuary; paintings and mosaics adorned the surfaces of the walls, which were covered in stucco and precious materials (onyx, porphyry, marble, ivory). The baths contained, in addition to the gymnasiums and palaestrae, a number of rooms devoted to physical development, promenades, works of art that turned those rooms into museums, and spaces for permanent exhibitions. There was also a park were visitors could meet and talk, and a public library. No one was excluded from partaking in this luxury (women were admitted on certain days) from the slave to the emperor himself, who made the baths his personal project and who was not adverse to making use of the sumptuous palace he had offered the people of Rome’ (Lefebvre 2014, pp. 136-7, emphasis my own).

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For Lefebvre, it was the cultivation of the body and mind within the gestures of bathing that produced the ‘most original architectural creation’. Body and mind within the social framework of Rome marked the spatial practice and activities.

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Lefebvre was not the only one to emphasise these aspects, although the two books shown here mark distinct differences in approach and argued meaning of architectural design. For Lefebvre, the total body of brain, gestures, sensory organs, needs to be considered, and the body’s plurality of interpretative, creative and productive processes recognised. This has implications for understanding space, as space does not present an intellectual representation, arising ‘from the visible-readable realm, but that it is first of all heard (listened to) and enacted (through physical gestures and movements)’ (Lefebvre, 1991, p. 200). MacDonald, as has been noted, emphasised the movement and action of street space in the second century CE, although I do not think his urban armature gives enough credit to physical interaction in the street space (and is dependent on the visible-readable correlation). Sennett, in contrast, wants to draw political implications for today from the physical heard and enacted space of the city. While an interesting notion, spatial histories, along with sensory histories, are much to pluralistic for such endeavours. What results is an underdeveloped imaginary of city space (in MacDonald’s case) or an overcooked political agenda set out in moral terms (Sennett).

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Lefebvre falls back on a dialectical relationship between spatial practices and productions of space, which entails a pedagogy of the senses and body. The experience of space is first and foremost the sensory perception of space. This is not to place sensory perceptions before the social and cultural spatial relations (‘proxemics’ in Hall’s terms). Certain spaces, led by the total body, provide opportunities for the body to break from the spatial and temporal constrains of labour, the division of labour, localisations of work and the specialisation of places (Lefebvre, 1991, p. 384). In this way, the physical body takes on a critical role as generative in the production of space (Lefebvre, 1991, p. 384; 2014, p. 149). In this way, the pedagogy of the body and senses is founded on the second point in Lefebvre’s spatial-sensory theory, the senses as theoreticians.

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Senses as Theoreticians

Reference is made to Marx and Nietzsche in the opening passage for their materialist approach in Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts and Nietzsche’s aphorisms. These two theorists (and Lefebvre uses them as theorists, more than as philosophers or thinkers) suggest a particular form of theoretical engagement. Although Lefebvre draws them together, I want to focus on what each provides in the next two points of Lefebvre’s spatial-sensory theory. In sum, Marx pushes for the senses as theoreticians, while Nietzsche indicates that the action of such a theorisation is poetic practice.

As active in the production of space, the senses become theoreticians. Lefebvre draws this idea from Nietzsche and Marx:

‘The truth of space thus leads us back (and is reinforced by) a powerful Nietzschean sentiment: ‘But may the will to truth mean this to you: that everything shall be transformed into the humanly-conceivable, the humanly-evident, the humanly-palpable! You should follow your own senses to the end. [Eure eignen Sinne sollt ihr zu Ende denken.]’ Marx, for his part, called in the Manuscripts of 1844 for the senses to become theoreticians in their own right. The revolutionary road of the human and the heroic road of the superhuman meet at the crossroads of space. Whether they then converge is another story’ (Lefebvre, 1991, pp. 399-400).

For Marx, the senses, and sensory organs, are not passive receptors, simply responding to what is around them. Instead, the senses, like labour, create objects and, in the cases of the senses, create reality, which is a social construction (Marx, 1992, p. 352). Following Marx, the senses are active in the creation of objects, as well as the creation of the human senses (Lefebvre, 2016, p. 127).

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The sensory organs, as conceptualised within Lefebvre’s total body, are critical theoreticians of space. The senses work on an object on the model of human labour working on raw materials. Marx makes a critical distinction between human labour and sensory perception, which is fundamental to each form of work. The distinction is that sensory transformation of the object is in terms of potential meanings, rather than the object as artefact (Feenberg, 2014, p. 46). Lefebvre, for his part, is breaking down this distinction in terms of space; human beings both produce spatial meanings and spatial artefacts. The senses can therefore be conceived as theoreticians, being both produced by the social relationships, the division of labour and gestures of work, and raising these productive relations to a critical level through the sensory perception of objects. For example, noise, as out-of-place sound, can also define the limits of understanding, being unpatterned or unknown sounds, beyond the horizon of meaning, that will in time (through repetition) become known (see Truax, 2001, p. 97).

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The mapping of transmission loss, the amount of sound that passes through a material, can therefore relate to the conceptualisation of geographical limits of auditory understanding, a literal horizon or threshold of auditory perception. In this way, the measurement of acoustic properties of architectural interventions by Augustus become measurements in conceptual and social horizons of audibility.

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Poetic Practice

Nietzsche, for Lefebvre, provides a practical and theoretical model for using ‘the body as a guide’ (Lefebvre, 2014, p. 103; see also 2016, pp. 122-26). Lefebvre comments that Nietzsche’s emphasis on visual metaphors to constitute abstract thought, which over time has reduced thoughts and actions derived from the other senses, is one of ‘Nietzsche’s great discoveries’ (1991, p. 139). We can reformulate Lefebvre’s four points, from The Production of Space, on Nietzsche’s discoveries in relation to the senses: 1) the actions of metaphor and metonymy are guided by the body’s experience of space through the senses; 2) expression of this sensory/spatial experience is constrained by an overreliance on visual metaphors, limiting language’s ability to express the total body; 3) the mental and social architecture of language, constrained by readability-visibility, is constantly reformulating connections due to the limits of its expression; 4) power, in the form of social and political structures, are aligned to visibility by the implicit reason and logic in visual metaphor and metonymy, their ‘common sense’ understanding.

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The twin critique of visual metaphors, what Lefebvre refers to as ‘visibility’, is a critique of ‘readability’. How do we ‘read’ the urban arrangement and architecture of the Roman period? Lefebvre cites Roland Barthes’ five codes for reading a text (hermeneutic, proairetic, semantic, symbolic and cultural) and applies them to the experience of Venice (Barthes, 1990; Lefebvre, 1991, pp. 160-1). This raises two unexplored areas when decoding is constrained to reading and texts (a visual object): on the one side, the body and, on the other side, the power (Lefebvre, 1991, p. 162). Due to constraints of space, I will leave power for discussion elsewhere, but I find Foucault’s use of ancient sources, especially the Stoicism of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, a interesting comparison in terms of the body, governmentality and issues of space/place. Central to the argument here, Lefebvre emphasises the body’s experience of place through the total body of the senses,

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‘[w]hen ‘Ego’ arrives in an unknown country or city, he [sic] first experiences it through every part of his body – through his sense of smell and taste, as (provided he does not limit this by remaining in his car) through his legs and feet. His hearing picks up the noises and the quality of the voices; his eyes are assailed by new impressions. For it is by means of the body that space is perceived, lived – and produced’ (1991, p. 162).

The perception of space by the body is part of spatial and social practices, which are excluded from the codes of reading and writing according to Lefebvre (Lefebvre, 2014, p. 125).

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Within this argument is a critique of certain formulations of interpreting urban forms or places. The most common, and referenced in ancient history and classical archaeology, interpretation of urban space and place along the lines of readability and visibility is Kevin Lynch’s conception of ‘urban image’ and ‘mental maps’. Lefebvre is not the only one to critique this formulation and Tim Ingold (2000) critiques Lynch’s ‘mental maps’ directly as a product of a modern cartographic conception of place:

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‘It is rather that the world of our experience is a world suspended in movement, that is continually coming into being as we – through our own movement – contribute to its formation. In the cartographic world, by contrast, all is still and silent. There is neither sunlight nor moonlight; there are no variations of light or shade, no clouds, no shadows or reflections. The wind does not blow, neither disturbing the trees nor whipping water into waves. No birds fly in the sky, or sing in the woods; forests and pastures are devoid of animal life; houses and streets are empty of people and traffic. To dismiss all this – to suggest that what is excluded in the cartographic reduction amounts, in Monmonier’s words, to a ‘fog of detail’ – is perverse, to say the least (Wood 1992: 76). For it is no less than the stuff of life itself. Were one magically transported into the looking-glass world behind the map, one would indeed feel lost and disoriented, as in a fog. But the fogginess is a function not of the amount or density of detail but of the arrestation of movement. Detached from the flow of which each is but a moment, details settle like an opaque precipitate upon the surface of the earth. Little wonder, then, that the cartographer feels the need to sweep them up, or that the navigator prefers to brush them aside in plotting a course!’ (Ingold 2000, p. 242).

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In Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment, Lefebvre criticises readability through the reversal of the practice of reading (2014, p. 125). In order to read architecture, there must be an assumed message or code within the building or urban form and since it is addressed to people (another assumption), it can be read and compared to writing (Lefebvre, 2014, p. 125). Lefebvre points out, however, that in practice the operation is reversed (2014, p. 125). It is not the building or space that is decoded, but space decodes the social practices of human beings. Human beings transmit a plurality of codes, which are not all directed at the intellect, such as emotions, passions or feelings. Architectural space refracts messages in the form of injunctions, proscriptions and proscribed acts, rather than signs; that is to say, architecture refracts social and spatial practices (2014, p. 125). Architecture, in this process, intensifies certain messages and transforms them into rules and assigned gestures, spatialising social practices and defining ‘places’ (2014, p. 125). In this case, the senses are not directly referenced by Lefebvre, but can be incorporated into the process. If architecture produces living bodies, part of that production is a range of sensory hierarchies and practices. At the level above sensory perception, language of space (point 2 in the reformulation of Lefebvre’s points) is taken for experience (sensory perception of physical space) and perceived to reflect ‘common sense’ sensory hierarchies, in this case, based on visual metaphors (in modernity). This links the history of the body to the history of space through the development of the senses within a given periods, cultures or other differences in spatial practices (Lefebvre, 1991, pp. 195-6).

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The senses as theoreticians and poetic practice critique the architectures of power through the senses, body and gestures. As argued, the senses as theoreticians are tools for critical thought and open up subversive responses to the strategies of the state and power. Foucault and de Certeau hover in the background behind that last sentence and offer comparative conceptions to what I am arguing is at work in Lefebvre. In historical terms, Lefebvre argues that the senses as theoreticians reveal the logic of visualisation that developed over centuries and eventually was built into cities and urbanism and is the central point in the middle of The Production of Space. Poetic practice critiques the actions and gestures that take place within the theoretical space opened up by the total body. For Lefebvre, the issue was to draw out the active, creative and productive side of the senses and body, the total body, to open up space to all its possibilities. At the end of Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment, Lefebvre suggests that the total body, sense as theoreticians and poetic practice set out a direction, echoing the ‘sense’ at the end of The Production of Space, for a revolutionary orientation of life (2014, p. 149). Here Lefebvre brings his own theory to the present situation of capitalism. For us, as ancient historians, archaeologists and classicists, the direction of such interpretations is a conceptualisation of the past. A past understood through the total body of sensory perceptions and imaginary conceptions, indicating hierarchies and strategies of power based on the senses, and enacted in the everyday sensory-spatial practices of ancient peoples.

January Update

This month has been a busy one for me with a move, some writing and lots of books. Here is a brief round up of some of the things that have happened and some things that will happen. As an aside, I am going to try post a monthly review of various academic related activities at the end of each month.

Writing

January saw the submission of an article on Henri Lefebvre’s theory of the senses and body in relation to his spatial theory. I have been working on, and using, Lefebvre’s spatial theory and use of ancient cultures for some time with a series of posts on ancient cities as examples within Lefebvre’s urban writings. This article did not go into the ancient sources and instead developed Lefebvre’s idea of the total body as central to his three-part division of space. I also drew out Lefebvre’s critique of readability-visibility-intelligibility as key to understanding his historical work in the second half of The Production of Space. Much of this work involved a close reading of The Production of Space and Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment. This article is the first in a larger (and longer) project on Lefebvre, some of which grows out of the posts on this blog.

I also (currently) am wrapping up a chapter on Roman porticoes in Ostia. This chapter is for an edited volume, but has some overlap with the monograph manuscript I am slowly pulling together. I used the conclusions from the Lefebvre article as a theoretical starting point to try and understand the movement, gestures and conceptions of space that were embodied in the experience of street porticoes. I place the archaeological and literary sources for Rome and Ostia in comparison to argue for a transition within the conception of porticoes from enclosed to open spaces following the developments of the Roman streets as the principle public spaces. I use Lefebvre’s discussion of monastic cloisters as a complete space (Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment) to bring together the archaeological evidence, which indicates the movements, gestures and bodily practices within porticoes, and the literary evidence, which indicates the perceived, social and moral values of the concept of porticoes.

Books

The holidays were filled with books… I read several new books that all revolve around neighbourhoods, rumours, streets, Roman politics and religion: Public Opinion and Politics in the Late Roman Republic by Cristina Rosillo-López, Origins of the Colonnaded Streets in the Cities of the Roman East by Ross Burns, Harriet Flower’s The Dancing Lares and the Serpent in the Garden: Religion at the Roman Street Corner, The Roman Street: Urban Life and Society in Pompeii, Herculaneum and Rome by Jeremy Hartnett, and I reread Lefebvre’s The Production of Space and Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment. Many of these books will appear in the coming posts, as well as current writing.

Odds and Sods

I moved back to California as my visa expired and University bureaucracy muddled up an extension. Not what I was planning, but I am making the most my time with family and have been using the UC Berkeley libraries.

I will be back in London at the end of February to present at a workshop. My presentation will develop some bits from my Lefebvre article and connect that work with Lefebvre’s use of Rome as an example of productive space. Like the majority of my presentations, I will post the manuscript on the blog here following the presentation.

Finally, I have started to pull together the manuscript for my Acoustics in Roman Ostia book. I have been continuously and slowly working on it and now I am starting to systematically work through sections and chapters. Bits and pieces of my other writings all feed into this monograph and its been interesting to see it develop.

Books of 2017!

Here is my list of new publications I’ve enjoyed from Urban Studies, Theory & Philosophy (in no particular order, as well as with some late 2016 books):

  1. Shannon Mattern, Code and Clay, Data and Dirt: Five Thousand Years of Urban Media, University of Minnesota Press.
  2. Verso Books, The Right to the City: A Verso Report, Verso Books (Free).
  3. Stuart Elden, Foucault: The Birth of Power, Polity Press.
  4. Ash Amin and Nigel Thrift, Seeing Like a City, Polity Press.
  5. Henri Lefebvre, Marxist Thought and the City, University of Minnesota Press.

Here is a round up of highlights in Ancient History & Classical Archaeology (again, in no particular order and some late 2016 books included):

  1. Miko Flohr and Andrew Wilson, The Economy of Pompeii, Oxford University Press.
  2. Arjan Zuiderhoek, The Ancient City, Cambridge University Press.
  3. Steve Walton, Paul Tribilco and David J. Gill, The Urban World and the First Christians, Eerdmans Publishing Co.
  4. Jeremy Hartnett, The Roman Street: Urban Life and Society in Pompeii, Herculaneum and Rome, Cambridge University Press.
  5. Eric Poehler, The Traffic Systems of Pompeii, Oxford University of Press.
  6. Harriet Flower, The Dancing Lares and the Serpent in the Garden: Religion at the Roman Street Corner, Princeton University Press.
  7. Sarah E. Bond, Trade and Taboo: Disreputable Professions in the Roman Mediterranean, University of Michigan Press.
  8. Eleanor Betts (ed), Senses of the Empire: Multisensory Approaches to Roman Culture, Routledge. I have a chapter in this volume…

Here are a few books that are already on my list to read:

  1. Steven J. Ellis, The Roman Retail Revolution: The Socio-Economic World of the Tabernae, Oxford University Press (estimated publication March 2018)
  2. William Fitzgerald and Efrossini Spentzou (eds.), The Production of Space in Latin Literature, Oxford University Press (estimated March 2018).
  3. Ross Burns, Origins of the Colonnaded Streets in the Cities of the Roman East, Oxford University Press.
  4. Penelope J. E. Davies, Architecture and Politics in Republican Rome, Cambridge University Press.
  5. Jacob A. Latham, Performance, Memory, and Processions in Ancient Rome: The Pompa Circensis from the Late Republic to Late Antiquity, Cambridge University Press.

The Senses as Theoreticians

I mention it regularly in my presentations that noise and sound serve as critical tools for understanding urban space, not simply as objects in space-time. Anyone who reads this blog will be aware of this distinction, as I talk more about the theoretical applications of noise to urban space, than listing the sounds and noises found in Latin lit (although, I have some graphs and resources for noise/silence terms here). However, I have run into the reference that originally clued me into this point several times recently. I want to look at that reference in detail, as it seems to me to be a crucial piece that often gets overlooked, or the implications are not fully realised.

I first encountered the idea that the senses could be theoreticians in Lefebvre (of course…) and it’s worth quoting it in full:

‘The truth of space thus leads us back (and is reinforced by) a powerful Neitzschean sentiment: ‘But may the will to truth mean this to you: that everything shall be transformed into the humanly-conceivable, the humanly-evident, the humanly-palpable! You should follow your own senses to the end. [Eure eignen Sinne sollt ihr zu Ende denken.]’ Marx, for his part, called in the Manuscripts of 1844 for the senses to become theoreticians in their own right. The revolutionary road of the human and the heroic road of the superhuman meet at the crossroads of space. Whether they then converge is another story.’ (The Production of Space, 399-400)

This passage is the end of chapter 6 and precedes the final chapter ‘Openings and Conclusions’. Thus, it comes at the culmination of Lefebvre’s discussion of the truth of space, over against true space, and its relation to social practices and social relations (The Production of Space, 397-400). The importance of Marx and Nietzsche for Lefebvre’s thought is well known (see Lefebvre’s La fin de l’historie (1970); Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche ou le royaume des ombres (1975); Koffman and Lebas intro in Writings on Cities (1996)) and he suggests that part of the connection between subversive Nietzschean and revolutionary Marxist thought through the truth of space. In contrast to true space, the truths of space of connect social practice to mental concepts and show how knowledge, consciousness and social practice share a common centre (The Production of Space, 399). This centre is a concentration of energies, a focus or core and a dialectic: ‘What is the ‘subject’? A momentary centre. The ‘object’? Likewise. The body? A focusing of active (productive) energies. The city? The urban sphere? Ditto’ (ibid, 399). For Lefebvre, this concentration, focus of energy and dialectical relationship emphasises centrality as key to mental and/or social space (ibid, 331-2; 399).

Centrality is defined by a ‘gathering and meeting of whatever coexists in a given space’, which makes it a form, although empty of content in itself, in geographical space (ibid, 331). This empty form of centrality also implies mobility (ibid, 332). What marks present society from ancient society is the aspiration of centrality to totality (Lefebvre refs to ancient Greece in this passage and the work of Jean-Pierre Vernant, ibid, 332). Centrality becomes centralisation in modern society. Returning to the senses as theoreticians, centrality as a spatial form, empty of content, and mobile is parallel to the sensory organs within the human body. This point needs fleshing out and for that we return to Marx’s point in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscript of 1844.

Marx’s line comes from the second manuscript, which formed an appendix titled ‘Private Property and Communism’. The section is broken into five elements in a definition of communism, although two different forms of communism are discussed. The first two points pertain to what Marx calls crude-communism and the third to fifth points relate to Marx’s own conception of communism.

For Marx, the senses, and sensory organs, are not passive receptors, simply responding to what is around them. Instead, the senses, like labour, create objects and, in the cases of the senses, reality. That is the senses are active in the creation of objects, as a historical evolution of human being (see Feenberg, The Philosophy of Praxis, 45-6). The senses, in this way, work on an object on the model of human labour working on raw materials. Marx makes a critical distinction between human labour and sensory perception, which is fundamental to each form of work. The distinction is that sensory transformation of the object is in terms of potential meanings, rather than the object as artefact (The Philosophy of Praxis, 46).

What Marx argues against is that in capitalist society appropriation of things is only conceived in terms of possession (Early Writings, 351-2). This is why the discussion of human senses, and sense organs, comes in the midst of the discussion of private property. Marx argues for an opening up of the concept of appropriation to include all human relations, listing ‘seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting feeling, thinking, contemplating, sensing, wanting, acting, loving’ (ibid, 351). Objects are appropriated through the senses, which does not always involve possession (in the majority of cases it does not).

Lefebvre links Marx’s idea of appropriation by the sense organs to use value and accumulation (The Production of Space, 179). The human being accumulates minimal and massive types of energy and disposes of minimal and massive amounts of energy. Sensory organs function on the level of minimal types of energy disposal, which correspond to forms of information processing (in conjunction with the brain). Massive forms of energy disposal include the muscular system or sexual organs. Lefebvre is right to note that these two forms of energy are not strictly separable (ibid, 179). This conception of the sensory organs parallels centrality as the space of accumulation of energy and its disposal in rupture, explosion or being rent apart (ibid, 332-3). What is underdeveloped in these parallel conceptions is the role of mobility and movement by the human body in the perception of space.

By comparison, Tim Ingold sets sensory perception not inside the head (an essentially mental activity ‘performed upon the raw material of sensation’, The Perception of the Environment, 244), but rather ‘sensory awareness rides on the cusp of the very movement of the world’s coming-into-being’ (ibid, 245). For Ingold, the separation of, and preference for, vision over hearing in Western thought has further reduced the role of movement in perception.

Returning to Lefebvre, these types of energy, both minimal and massive, are mobile around the human body, while the human needs stable apparatuses to capture these energies (Lefebvre’s point), the process of capturing these energies is dependent on movement (Ingold’s point). Lefebvre is less concerned with movement and, instead, interested in the relationship between the human body and space. The accumulation of energy by the human body before it acts constitutes a defining aspect of the relationship between the human and space (The Production of Space, 179). ‘Productive’ expenditure of energy is any energy expenditure that effects some change in the world (ibid, 179). For the human being, this implies a relationship to oneself, which makes this productive expenditure of energy a reproductive expenditure that constitutes social life. Movement, however, is best understood as a productive expenditure of energy, one which is guided by sensory modalities, as Ingold points out. Ingold’s emphasis on movement as the ground for perception can be aligned with Lefebvre’s argument that the human body and urban centrality are sites of accumulation of energy, which are spatial and temporal. What I suggest, and interests me, is that Lefebvre and Ingold should be read in conjunction and that movement is the process through which sensory information is accumulated in the human body from its interaction in space. The senses are the mediating organs in the process of interpreting social and mental space, and simultaneously human relationships to space. This is the production of space through the senses, which was the point we began with. The senses are theoreticians for interpreting social relationships, the mental conceptions of space and interactions between individuals in daily practices.

At the foundation of such a theoretical endeavour are movement, space and the senses. The three elements are in relationship; a dialectical relationship that includes the physical, mental and social space, which is interpreted and reproduced through the senses and movement.

Bibliography

  1. Feenberg (2014) The Philosophy of Praxis:Marx, Lukács and the Frankfurt School (Verso).
  2. Indgold (2011) The Perception of the Environment: Essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill (Routledge).
  3. Lefebvre (1991) The Production of Space. Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith (Blackwell).
  4. Marx (1992) Early Writings. Translated by Rodney Livingstone and Gregor Benton (Penguin Classics).

Overplaying the Senses

I have been working on a chapter discussing sensory approaches to Roman cities and urbanism using Pompeii as a case study. In the final section, I decided to tackle a topic I keep running into, which constantly bothers me. There is a distinctive approach to ancient cities that empahise the dirt, disease and waste as simple ways of distancing the ancient from the modern. This approach brings with it an emphasis on the ‘sordid nature’ and, if you take literary sources at face value, the smelliness of the ancient world. Now, I do not think that the ancient and modern can be directly correlated, but I also do not think we need to overplay certain senses, in this case most often smell, to makesuch claims. I have continually argued that the Romans lacked the ability to sound proof their buildings. However, this argument does not suggest that Romans were unable to acoustically differentiate space or that they were simply loud or thatthey did not care about sound and noise. That is to say, we need to be more nuanced and careful in treating the ancient world, or we risk implicitly reinforcing a view of the ancients as ‘not as smart as me’ (an implicit academic egotism, for sure). Anyways, below is that section of the chapter…

Overplaying the Senses

The discussion above has produced a city that has different geographical sensory features, but as indicated at the start, these do not correspond to generalities across the city. While individual sensory characteristics were experienced more regularly in certain areas, this does not extend beyond a certain distinct area. This is a picture of differentiation; certain senses are peaked in certain areas of the city, like the area around the Via degli Augustali. This interpretation of the sensory geography derives from the approach taken, which emphasises the kinaesethic experience of city-dwellers. Movement and mobility are at the base of such an approach and mark the city at different scales, whether the city and countryside, local neighbourhoods, or specific street segments.

However there is another line of thought that sees the city itself, especially Rome, in terms of filth and disease. This is a reading of the city founded on a lack of efficient sanitation, breeding disease, which produces nauseous smells and general detritus across the city. Drawn primarily from ancient satirical sources, especially Horace, Juvenal and Martial, mixed with anecdotal stories from the likes of Lanciani, this tradition is not new (Morley 2015, p. 112). The reading of Roman cities as unhealthy continues through the classic works of Yavetz (1958) and Scobie (1986; cf. Laurence 1997). For Scobie, in particular, a contemporary U.K. poverty survey forms the standard by which to asses Rome (1986). Rome is as the satirists describe it, filled with noise, crowds and dirt, which correspond to contemporary urban problems. In this interpretation, ancient urbanism was the carrier of contemporary urban problems and maladies, and to some scholars, therefore, loud and malodorous. This line of thought overplays the sensory impact of literary descriptions, especially in terms of sound and smell, and reads those impacts back into the archaeology. Unsurprisingly, Scobie comes to a Hobbesian conclusion that life in Rome was short and often violent (1986, p. 433). This view of Roman life has been extended to the sensory realm, suggesting that Roman cities stank with waste, dead bodies and putrid diseases (Koloski-Ostrow 2015; cf. Veitch 2017). Difference is highlighted in this interpretation, over and against the ways in which a plurality of stimuli are experienced continually by the body (Morley 2015, pp. 112-3).

In contrast, the Roman city was more than just waste, dirt and disease. The movement of goods, people and ideas went hand-in-hand with the movement of waste and disease. Mobility was central to the experience of Roman cities and what is needed is a focus on the ways these various elements (dirt, disease, waste, water, people, animals, etc.) moved through the urbanism of the Roman empire. Critical engagement with the archaeological remains enables the politics of literary moral judgements to surface without recourse to anecdotal overemphasising the sensory characteristics. Yes, Rome was loud, but that simple notion does little to help us understand the ways in which the city was experienced. In the case mentioned above, smell is used as a ‘common sense’ argument over and against nuanced interpretations. This line of reasoning brings with it limitations. The question ‘did the ancient world smell worse, than today?’ hides the more important questions of cultural, social and political judgements about everyday existence in the Roman world, paralleling the work of Bourdieu on judgements of taste (1979).

In short, Roman cities were filled with places of sensory experiences that elicited social, economic and political responses to that stimulation, which were part of the reproduction of Roman society. To be a proper Roman was to smell, sound, move, gesture and dress in a particular way that fluidly changed over time; while deviations from this were the source of literary criticism or moral degradation (see Corbiell 2004, O’Sullivan 2011, Harlow 2013, Laurence 2015). Overemphasising the senses risks limiting our understanding of ancient social relationships, reducing the complexity to straightforward readings of the literary sources. Like so many other topics, the material remains evoke complex relationships between inhabitants, environments, urban structures, which further complicate Roman, or any other, social and cultural relationships (see Urry 2003). Therefore, we need to be cautious and nuanced in applying sensory methodologies, as well as in interpreting the various forms evidence available for any given period.

 

Bibliography

Corbiell, A. (2004) Nature Embodied: Gesture in Ancient Rome (Princeton: Princeton University Press).

Bourdieu, P. (1979) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

Harlow, M. (2013) ‘Dressed Women on the Streets of the Ancient City: What to Wear?’ in Hemelrijk and Woolf (eds.) Women and the Roman City in the Latin West (Leiden: Brill), 225-242.

Koloski-Ostrow, A.O. (2015) ‘Roman Urban Smells: The Archaeological Evidence’ in M. Bradley (ed.) Smell and the Ancient Senses (Abingdon: Routledge), 90-109.

Laurence, R. (2015) ‘Towards a History of Mobility in Ancient Rome (300 BCE – 100 CE)’ in I. Östenberg, S. Malmberg, and J. Bjørnebye (eds.) The Moving City: Processions, Passages and Promenades in Ancient Rome (London: Bloomsbury), 175-86.

Laurence, R. (1997) ‘Writing the Roman Metropolis’, in Parkins (ed.) Roman Urbanism: Beyond the Consumer City (London: Routledge), 1-20.

Morley, N. (2015) ‘Urban Smells and Roman Noses’, in Bradley (ed.) Smell and the Ancient Senses (Abingdon: Routledge), 110-119.

O’Sullivan, T. (2011) Walking in Roman Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Scobie, A. (1986) ‘Slums, Sanitation and Mortality in the Roman World’ Kilo 68: 399-433.

Urry, J. (2003) Mobilities (London: Polity).

Veitch, J. (2017) ‘Making Sense of Antiquity’, The Senses and Society 12: 103-108.

Yavetz, Z. (1958) ‘The living conditions of the urban plebs in republican Rome’, Latomus 17: 500-517.

Porticoes, Embodiment and Street Cries: Recent work…

Image: North Cardo Maximus, facing south, towards the forum in Ostia (Jeff Veitch)

Currently, I am working on a variety of different things all at once (presentations, publications, job applications). I have not posted here as much due to these activities and some, like job applications, are not very exciting things to discuss on the blog. However there are a couple of concepts and ideas that are worth briefly discussing, in the hopes that it will motivate me to devote more time to them in the coming months. So, here are a couple of topics swimming in my head right now…

Porticoes: I have two upcoming presentations that I am working on (details here). Originally, I had planned to write two completely separate papers on different aspects of my work (motivating me to write and formulate more particular approaches, ideas, etc). Instead, the two presentations will draw on case studies of porticoes from Ostia. In preparing these presentations, I keep returning to the experienced difference of portico architecture within the social space of streets. At a basic level, the portico is shaded and separated from the street. In auditory terms, the portico and street are different auditory fields, however the two fields influence each other. When the acoustic properties of street canyons are modelled, in instances where porticoes exist, the properties show a marked progression towards the acoustic properties of Ostia’s main street, the decumanus. In a way, certain streets approach the auditory character of the decumanus with the addition of porticoes. The chronology further emphasises the experienced character of the space, which is replicated to various degrees in other places across the city. Streets that could never reach the scale of the decumanus are able to mimic its auditory experience through more controlled and smaller scale developments. I will be testing some of these ideas this next week, when I present in Kiel, Germany.

Embodiment: Several books, lectures and writings have brought embodiment back to the forefront of what I am doing. I picked up Terry Eagleton’s new book, Materialism, and he makes a case for the importance of embodiment in Marx, as well as other forms of materialism. Tied into the emphasis on embodiment is the role of the senses as ways of measuring urban space or embodiment as site of particular forms of knowledge gleaned from the senses. These are not new ideas for me, but they are beginning to crystallise in particular ways (as well as focusing my generally scattered interests). Much of these ideas will appear in my presentations coming up, although they are primarily in the background and theory behind the presentations.

Finally, street cries: Street noise is one of the primary topics in my work and one that I continue dig into. After the winter holidays, I read through a series of books on Paris in the 18th and 19th century. Street criers, sellers and vendors were a part of the landscape of the city in that period and changes to the architecture of Paris were expressed in relation to street noise. There are some parallels with the ancient world, although comparisons need to be cautiously approached. What I find most useful, however, is the theoretical implication of much of this work, which builds bridges between social, political and economic aspects of the senses and their spatial settings. In short, as the topography of Paris changes, the sensorium likewise changes; these shifts produce different social, political and economic spatialities. Rome, I would argue, undergoes parallel changes in many ways. To say that architectural changes that alter the topography of Rome change the experience of the city is obvious. However, what need further study are the particularities of these changes.

How did the addition of porticoes change the way sellers utilised street space? What are the economic implications? Or social? Or political, for that matter? Do street traders change tactics in response to the development of porticoes along streets? Some of these questions have begun to be addressed in various ways. Sarah Bond’s new book, Trade & Taboo: Disreputable Professions in the Roman Mediterranean, address aspects of social stigmas towards criers and auctioneers (praeco). In particular, Bond emphasises the changing nature of such social stigmas from the late Republic to late antiquity. The emphasis on changing stigmas, parallels my own interest in changing urban forms. In a different context, Arjan Zuiderhoek, in The Ancient City (part of the Key Themes in Ancient History series), discusses (briefly) street sellers in terms of a wider understanding of ancient cities. Zuiderhoek covers a similar longue durée of ancient history, although he highlights continuity in city formations, focusing instead more on the archaeological material and current debates. Both are recent publications, which highlight some of the areas for further investigation.

Hopefully, in the coming months some of these ideas will formulate into even more coherent research agendas, possible publications and further blog posts. In the meantime, it’s back to presentation prep and editing a chapter due by the end of the month…

Senses of the Empire is out!

Image: Senses of the Empire book cover (Routledge 2017)

Available here Table of Contents Introduction: Senses of Empire Eleanor Betts Chapter 1 The Sounds of the City: from Noise to Silence in Ancient Rome Ray Laurence Chapter 2 The Multivalency of Sensory Artefacts in the City of Rome Eleanor Betts Chapter 3 Beyond Smell: the Sensory Landscape of the Roman fullonica Miko Flohr Chapter 4 […]

via New publication: Senses of the Empire Multisensory Approaches to Roman Culture — Sensory Studies in Antiquity

I have a chapter in Senses of the Empire: Multisensory Approaches to Roman Culture, edited by Eleanor Betts. It is an exciting volume covering a aspects of methods, theories and historical insights into sensory studies of antiquity. My chpater outlines my own methodology for assessing acoustic properties in an archaeological context. The conference in which this volume comes out of was my first foray into sensory studies approaches and it is great to see the final result (although I have not yet received my copy of the book…).

Making sense of antiquity: Review of The Senses in Antiquity series (Routledge) in The Senses & Society 12.1

Image: The Forum Romanum (Jeff Veitch)

My review of Mark Bradley and Shane Bulter’s The Senses in Antiquity book series was published in the journal The Senses and Society. I review the three books out so far (Synaesthesia, Smell, and Sight). The issue is available here (you will need institutional access). I have posted a preprint here.