The Aroma of Recollections: Olfaction, Notalgia, and the Shaping of the Sensuous Self

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Sociology and Corrections


This study examines olfactory perception and nostalgic memories focusing on sense acts and the sensuous self as a dialectic of ritual sensations and sense-making rituals. Our data are drawn from a convenience sample of twenty-three participants who reflected on their olfactory experiences through the use of research journals. Our analysis illustrates how olfactory perceptions and memories are necessarily produced by active “idealizing activity” that is emergent in sensuous rituals that help maintain self continuity over time. Our focus on olfaction – at the expense of a more multisensory approach focusing on, say, taste and olfaction – contributes to a very small body of sociological (but also a larger body of anthropological) literature on this important but much neglected medium of perception.

Publication Title

The Senses and Society