Issue 1/2014, 110. Volume Page 33–64
Vividness. Anthropology of the Senses and the Concept of Experience in the 18th Century
Anthropologisierung der Sinne und der Erfahrungsbegriff im 18. Jahrhundert
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In the 18th century the call for vivid clearness was strongly tied to epistemological and philosophical reflections upon nature, society and mankind in general. Empiricism, observation, perception, sensation, and experience became keywords within a broad anthropological debate about man. These notions and the empiricist concepts behind it are of great interest for the discipline of European Ethnology/Cultural Anthropology. In what follows, I would like to trace back the success story of the concept of experience to the 18th century’s discursive formation of the anthropology of the senses. I will use Friedrich Justin Bertuch’s Bilderbuch für Kinder (1790–1830) as a vantage point for the analysis of the debates of the time about vividness and perception. It is this time when the (knowledge-)picture lies at the core of debates about cognition and knowledge. It was thought to generate impressions, an idea which was very much linked to the concept of experience itself. Nevertheless, with my thick description of experience I am not only interested in its emergence but very much in the way it has been utilized epistemologically. This article is thereby concerned with a reflective analysis of sensual, empirical-experiential categories which not only enjoy increasing popularity within the fields of sensual ethnography and the anthropology of the senses, but which lie at the very heart of the identity of the discipline itself.
anthropology of the senses, experience, history of perception, visual history, Empiricism, sensualism, picture book, natural history