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The olfactory experience: constants and cultural variables.

Abstract : Odor and olfaction anthropology explores four lines of research which, in many cases, may overlap: the variability of the olfactory perception, olfactory skills and know-how, odor use, and odor representations. My proposal here is to deal with the first one, trying to answer the following question: is olfactory perception a phenomenon resulting solely from the biological organization of the human being, in such a way that it does not know other variations than the ones due to nature? Or, on the contrary, can we show different kinds of olfaction culturally determined or, at least, environmental influences resulting in significant perceptual differences among groups, societies, cultures, etc.? In the first part of the text, I will deal with the invariants (or universals). In the second, I will insist on the cultural types of olfaction. In the third and last part, I will advance the following proposal: beyond the discussion on the roles that nature and culture play in human olfaction, we can sustain that naturally and culturally, there is a way of smelling characteristic of our species. Finally, I will conclude with two examples of the symbolic treatment characteristic of the olfactory human experience.
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Contributor : Joël Candau <>
Submitted on : Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 10:00:29 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, October 27, 2020 - 1:44:02 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Saturday, May 14, 2011 - 2:13:55 AM


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  • HAL Id : halshs-00130924, version 1


Joël Candau. The olfactory experience: constants and cultural variables.. Water Science and Technology, IWA Publishing, 2004, 49 (9), pp.11-17. ⟨halshs-00130924⟩



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