*Qualia: Anthropological Explorations in the Experience of Quality*
Anthropology Department, University of Chicago, April 30 & May 1, 2010
Organizers: Nicholas Harkness & Lily Hope Chumley
Nancy D. Munn’s pioneering ethnography, _The Fame of Gawa: A Symbolic Study of Value Transformation in a Massim (Papua New Guinea) Society_, was a seminal contribution to the anthropology of qualities and their cultural valuation. Drawing on Charles S. Peirce’s concept of the “qualisign,” Munn showed how the structured experience of valuable qualities in the Gawan lived world figured as signs in rituals of exchange, processes of value transformation, and the production and expansion of “intersubjective spacetime.” This conference builds on Munn’s ethnographic and analytical insights to explore recent areas of interest in the anthropology of qualitative experience, such as the senses, materiality, language, embodiment, aesthetics, and affect.
We broaden the theoretical field by introducing Peirce’s more general term, “qualia” (sing. “quale”), which refers to what people understand to be the experiences of qualities of things and events in their world. Using this concept, the papers in this conference link Munn’s pioneering work to more recent anthropological research by investigating the orientation to and valorization of qualia in differently scaled, diverse, and sometimes geographically dispersed social formations. Papers in the conference address topics as diverse as synaesthesia, language and transnational communication, pulse-taking, stage performance, diamonds, and mobility to understand how qualia figure in the production and maintenance of contemporary social relations — such as intimacies and hierarchies, communities and publics.
Key Note Lecture, Nancy D. Munn, Friday, April 30, 3:00 pm, Stuart 105
Conference Sessions Saturday, May 1, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm Swift Hall, 3rd Floor Lecture Hall
Faculty Presentations: Yarimar Bonilla (U Virginia), Judith Farquhar, Susan Gal, Joseph Hankins (UCSD), Daniel Miller (University College London)
Alaina Lemon (University of Michigan), Michael Silverstein
Graduate Student Presentations: Filipe Calvao, Lily Hope Chumley, Nicholas Harkness, Shunuke Nozawa, Laurence Ralph, Jonathan Rosa, Eitan Wilf