DOI: 10.1111/etho.12417 ISSN: 0091-2131

Atmospheres: The multisensoriality of spatially extended emotions

Patrick Eisenlohr
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Anthropology


In this essay, I introduce an analytic of atmosphere as a way to bridge the gap between the phenomenology of the felt‐body and the anthropology of the senses. This analytic of atmospheres as multisensoriality partially aligns with, but also differs from other anthropological approaches to multisensoriality or the anthropology of the senses. Examining the meaningfulness of atmospheres as spatially extended emotions from a neo‐phenomenological perspective, I argue that the notion of atmosphere offers advantages for understanding sensory cultural practices such as sounding and lighting. The felt dimensions of these practices often escape full qualification by cultural discourses, but are nevertheless deeply meaningful. Further, I explore how such atmospheric meaningfulness is irreducible to particular single sensory modi. Instead, it rests on diffuse and synesthetic kinds of felt‐bodily affectedness with a holistic character. I demonstrate this by way of two ethnographic examples, investigating practices sounding and lighting, respectively, as atmospheric practices.

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