David Howes

Academic Degrees:

- Ph.D. in Anthropology, Université de Montréal (1992)

- Bachelor of Civil Law (B.C.L.), McGill University (1985)

- Bachelor of Common Law (L.L.B.), McGill University (1985)

- M.Litt. in Social Anthropology, Oxford University (1981)

- Bachelor of Arts, University of Toronto (1979)

Brief summary of research areas:

1. Anthropology of the Senses. How are our senses formed by culture? What is the world like to societies that emphasize touch or hearing over sight? Do men's and women's senses differ?

This research program was inspired by Marshall McLuhan's idea of the shifting sensorium. He held that the ratio of the senses changes with the development of new technologies of communication, from the stylus to the computer. Research carried out by the author in the interior of Papua New Guinea, the Andean region of Argentina and the American Southwest has revealed that there is substance to McLuhan's idea, but that so-called oral societies present far more sensory diversity than McLuhan's model of them as "ear-minded" would suggest. This research program has also involved an exploration of multisensoriality (or synaesthesia) in the artistic and medical traditions of diverse non-western cultures.

2. Canadian Studies. This research program seeks to marry the two disciplines of cultural studies and constitutional studies by developing a cultural account of the Canadian constitution which is at the same time a constitutional account of Canadian culture. Cultural studies teaches that cultures tend to constitute themselves in contradistinction to each other, and that the mode of organization of society shapes the creative activity of the imaginary. Building on these two ideas, this research opens with a comparative analysis of the Canadian and American constitutions and goes on to show how in the arrangement of a song or painting one may catch a reflection of the constitution of society. Case studies include: in music, the works of Glenn Gould and Van Kliburn; in painting, the works of Alex Colville and Norman Rockwell; in literature the novels of L.M. Montgomery and Kate Douglas Wiggin.

3. Anthropology of Consumption. What has the globalization of the consumer society meant for the small-scale societies normally studied by anthropologists? How has Western culture itself changed as a result of the influx of "exotic" goods and practices over the last few centuries? This research program raises issues of cultural imperialism and appropriation, of colonization and decolonization, of how the West represents its "others" and how those "others" in turn represent the West - all through the medium of the meanings and uses which consumer goods carry and/or have ascribed to them when they cross borders.

4. Anthropology of Law. How do Native American ideas of justice differ from those embodied in the Anglo-American common law and legislative tradition? What would a culturally-sensitive court system for the Canadian North involve? This research program focusses on the challenge to conventional Western notions of justice posed by diverse Native American legal traditions, most notably the customary law of the Hopi of the American Southwest and the Dene of the Canadian Northwest.

Current research work:

"Culture and Consumption" (1998-2001) funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, $88,000. Research on the reception-domestication of select goods and services of North American origin in China, Brazil, India, Russia, etc. and, conversely, the reception-localization of select goods and services from those countries in Canada and the U.S. (in collaboration with Sally Cole, Homa Hoodfar, Michael Huberman, David Ownby, Annamma Joy, Joseph Smucker).

"Beyond the Aesthetic Gaze: For an Aesthetics of the `Other' Senses" (1997-2000) funded by Fonds pour la Formation de Chercheurs et de l'Aide à la Recherche, $56,000. Research on the role of the five senses in the history of Western art and aesthetics, and the multisensory aesthetics of diverse North and South American native cultures (in collaboration with Constance Classen, Brian Foss, Janice Helland, and Anthony Synnott). This project culminated in the UncommonSenses conference which was held at Concordia in April 2000. For more information see http://alcor.concordia.ca/~senses

"Medicine and the Five Senses in Northwestern Argentina" (1994-1998) funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, $30,000. Research on the role of the senses in the diagnosis and treatment of disease in Argentine folk medicine (in collaboration with Constance Classen).

Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples (ongoing). Research on how Native American societies can use Anglo-American law to defend their traditions against cultural appropriation.

Select Publications:

1. Books

David Howes (ed.),

Cross-Cultural Consumption: Global Markets, Local Realities. London: Routledge, 1996

Constance Classen, David Howes and Anthony Synnott

Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell. London: Routledge, 1994.

- translated into Portuguese (1996), Japanese (1997) and Greek


David Howes (ed.)

The Varieties of Sensory Experience: A Sourcebook in the Anthropology of the Senses. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.

2. Articles and Chapters

«Identités contrefaçonnées: Grey owl, appropriation culturelle et droit privé.» In Nicholas Kasirer (ed.) Le faux en droit privé. Montreal: Editions Thémis, 2000.

"Freud's Nose: The Repression of Nasality and the Origin of Psychoanalytic Theory". In Victoria de Rijke, Lene Ostermark-Johansen and Helen Thomas (eds.) The Nose Book. London: Middlesex University Press, 2000

Constance Classen & David Howes, "Vital Signs: The Dynamics of Traditional Medicine in Northwestern Argentina." In Lynne Phillips (ed.), The Third Wave of Modernization in Latin America. Wilmington, DE: Jaguar Books, 1998.

- "Oedipus Out of the Trobriands: Sensory Order, Erotogenic Zones and Psychosexual Development in the Massim Region, Papua New Guinea," Psychoanalytic Psychology (1997) 14(1): 43-63

- "Picturing the Constitution: Sociology of the Art of Alex Colville and Norman Rockwell." 21(4) The American Review of Canadian Studies (1991): 383-408

"We Are the World and Its Counterparts: Popular Song as Constitutional Discourse." 3(3) International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society (1990): 315-339

- "La domestication de la pensée juridique québecoise." 13(1) Anthropologie et Sociétés (1989): 103-126

- "From Polyjurality to Monojurality: The Transformation of Quebec Law, 1875-1929." 32(3) McGill Law Journal (1987): 523-558

3. Recent Papers Presented

"Framing the Canadian Imaginary," Faculty of Law, McGill University, November 14, 200

"Hierarchies and Histories of the Senses," Conference on Processes of Enclusion and Exclusion in Western Societyy, University of Amsterdam, October 5-7, 2000

"Frontiers of Justice: Flying Judges, Borderline Cases and Northern Spirits," Faculty of Arts, McGill University, October 3, 2000

"Sensual Relations, or The Life of the Senses in Society: Melanesian Case Studies," Uncommon Senses Conference, Concordia University, April 27, 2000

"In the Realms of the Senses: Sensory Order and Perceptual Environment in Two Cultural Areas of Papua New Guinea," American Anthropological Association, Chicago, November 20, 1999

"Freud's Nose and Marx's Ear: A View for the Anthropology of the Senses," History of Sensation: 1400 to the Present Conference, Warburg Institute, May 29, 1999

"Touch," Religion and the Senses Conference, Princeton University, May 22, 1999

"Anthropology of Consumption: Implications for Advertising Research", Multi-Cultural Marketing Conference, Montreal, September 19, 1998

"Body Signs: Body Decoration and Sensory Symbolism in South America," Come to Your Senses Conference, Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis (ASCA), Amsterdam, May 25, 1998

"Sensuous Rites: Aesthetics, Performance, Healing," College Art Association, Toronto, February 28, 1998

"Sensory Healing," Aroma 97 Conference, Warwick University, England. July 4, 1997.

Notable Awards or Honours:

- Commonwealth Scholarship to study Social Anthropology at Oxford University (1979-1981).

- Richard B. Salomon Prize for Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell (1995), awarded by the Fragrance Foundation.